Press Releases
New Westminster Museum exhibition of Indigenous art and artifacts arrives by canoe
Posted On:
May 24, 2024

New Westminster, B.C. – Today, New Westminster welcomed a group of Indigenous artists who arrived by land and canoe to deliver their bentwood chest creations, which will be featured in New Westminster Museum and Archive’s new exhibition, Downstream Where the Waters Mix, opening tonight. Organized by Sacred Rock Community Society, the Grandmothers Canoe Journey visited over 14 communities this spring, collecting offerings of letters, photos, and tokens, and helping people to give thanks, celebrate, honour, grieve, resolve trauma, and find peace in their lives.

Sixteen Interior Salish and Coast Salish artists participated in the Grandmothers Canoe Journey, sharing stories of their relationships with their grandmothers, families, nations, ancestors, and Mother Earth through the artwork they placed on the chests. During their travels, the artists discussed what brings Indigenous peoples together and how colonization and the continued violence and genocide against Indigenous people has disconnected them from themselves, their homes, and their families. The Grandmothers Canoe Journey is part of Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey, a multi-year movement that connects artists and Indigenous communities across B.C. through culture, arts and ceremony to restore relationships between generations with the water, lands, and wild salmon.

“We are returning our grandmothers’ spirits and their memories to our communities. It is part of our healing,” says Nadine Spence, a Nlaka’pamux/Secwepemc artist and founder of Sacred Rock, which invites healing and reconnection for Indigenous people. “This communal work is done for the wellness of all of our children. By acknowledging the truth of the continued violence, racism, and genocide against our people, we can begin to move forward together in solidarity. We are healing through art and ceremony.”

Today’s canoe landing took place at Sapperton Landing, where, on this day in 1864, Governor Seymour promised 55 Chiefs and more than 4,000 tribal peoples protection and compensation for their lands. The Grandmothers’ lead canoe was welcomed by 50 witnesses consisting of community members, artists, and New Westminster’s mayor. A welcoming ceremony was led by Charlene Aleck of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, with speeches by Rita Wong, Poet-Scholar and Water Keeper; Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director for’s; and Dorothy Christian of the Secwepemc and Syilx Nations and Associate Director of Indigenous Policy and Pedagogy at SFU.

“It was an honour to be invited to witness the arrival of the Grandmothers Canoe Journey, and for the City of New Westminster to be offered the opportunity to support Sacred Rock’s healing movement. The exhibition showcases an incredible collection of artwork and Indigenous offerings that provide the opportunity for our community to learn, experience, and reflect upon our shared histories,” said Mayor Patrick Johnstone.

New Westminster Museum’s exhibition, Downstream Where the Waters Mix, opens tonight and runs until December 15. It features the bentwood chests and boxes, along 45 additional pieces curated by Nadine Spence, such as woven blankets, carvings, art, and regalia. The exhibition focuses on personal, family, and community healing journeys in a safe and respectful space that does not oppress the truth and realities of Indigenous Peoples of the past or present day.

The public are invited to attend the free opening reception tonight, May 24, at 6:00 pm. The exhibition will be opened by Musqueam Elder Mary Point with artist talks from Ronnie Dean Harris (Stō:lo/St’át'imc/N’laka'pamux), Carrielynn Victor (S’ólh Téméxw), Athena Picha (Kwantlen/Tsartlip), and Vanessa Serroul (St'át'imc). More information about the event is available on the City’s website.


PARTICIPATING ARTISTS (including Indigenous and non-Indigenous):

Nadine Spence, Ronnie Dean Harris, Carrielynn Victor, Peter Wayne Gong, Matthew Gong, Vanessa Serroul, Gerry Sheena, Atheana Picha, Denni Spence, Autumn Walkem, Delilah Walkem, Roger Spence, Caroline Lytton, Stephen Lytton, Lydia Brown, Margaret August, Irene Adams, David Ng, Jen Sungshine, Julia Kidder and Matthew Bayly.


  • Artist biographies, and historical backgrounders: here
  • Map and poster about May 24 landing: here


Melissa Nilan
Communications Coordinator
City of New Westminster
| 604-515-3808

Valerie Elliott – available on site at exhibition opening
Media Relations for Sacred Rock
250-532-6267 (cell) |

David McCullum
Media Relations for Sacred Rock
604-537-4191 (cell) |