There is Indigenous art all around Burnaby (City of Burnaby; Marco Ovies / Burnaby Beacon)

Where to find Indigenous art in Burnaby

Have you checked out any of these beautiful pieces yet?



September 29, 2022 | 5:00 am

A number of Indigenous artists have created beautiful art around Burnaby that you may not know about.

Around the city, you’ll be able to find several pieces including a sculpture, a canoe, and a totem pole, each with a specific story to tell.

This list of Indigenous art in Burnaby is intended to help you explore and learn more about the Indigenous history around you.

Legend of Deer Lake

Indigenous art in Burnaby
Legend of Deer Lake (UBC First Nation Longhouse / Facebook)

In the southwest corner of Deer Lake Park is a trail of 312 steps with a telling of the Legend of Deer Lake by E. Pauline Johnson. There are 13 different plaques along this trail telling the story placed in order along this 550m trail.

The story “describes how a young hunter speared a “king” harbour seal in False Creek with a magical elk-bone spear only to lose the beast to a hidden underground creek. Months later, he awoke to a forest fire — an ‘omen; to the east. On the shore of Deer Lake, he found the remains of the seal and recovered his magical elk-bone spear. Reunited with his spear, the man became a brave hunter and the first Chief of Capilano.”

You can read our piece by Srushti Gangdev to learn more, or we encourage you to visit the actual steps in Deer Lake Park.

Address: Deer Lake Park, 5435 Sperling Ave.


Jordans Totem Pole

Indigenous art in Buranby
Jordans Totem Pole (City of Burnaby)

Jordans Totem Pole was commissioned in 2009 and completed 20 months later but Tom D. Hunt, a master carver from Fort Rupert.  This “traditional Kwakwaka’wakw pole was carved fully in the round” which means it was carved on all sides.  The totem is displayed “in recognition of the contribution of the First Peoples of the Northwest Coast.”

Tom D. Hunt is a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation and is the son of Hereditary Chief George Hunt and Mary Hunt. “Tom began apprenticing in Kwakwaka’wakw art with his father at the age of twelve and later worked with his brother George Hunt Jr.”

Address: Jordans Flooring Outlet, 5605 Byrne Rd.

Rise and Fall

Indigenous art in Burnaby
Rise and Fall/ City of Burnaby

Rise and Fall is a 21-foot outdoor art installation made by Marianne Nicolson, a visual artist, cultural researcher, historian, and Indigenous rights activist. The installation is made up of four pillars with images that move across each one to form “a single larger image of humans in canoes, symbolizing Indigenous belief systems regarding the values of peace, caretaking and togetherness. ”

Address: 4711 Hazel Street

Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation crosswalk

Indigenous art in Burnaby
Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation Crosswalk (Burnaby Schools)

This Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation crosswalk is the first of its kind in Burnaby. Grade 6 and 7 students at Westridge Elementary in Audrey Venner’s class wanted to put reconciliation into action. The design features a Thunderbird and was created by Coast Salish artist Atheana Picha, who connected with the students before making the design.

The class focused particularly on Call #82, which calls on communities to “install a publicly accessible, highly
visible Residential Schools Monument[…] to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”

In a statement to the Beacon, Atheana Picha said, “[The crosswalk] was inspired by the sketches the students were doing. They wanted a figure on it, like an animal motif. There were some students that were incorporating eagle feathers, which I really liked. That’s fairly accessible, most cultures incorporate feathers into their regalia.

“The Thunderbird is like a supernatural being. So it kind of inherently, to me, reminds me of communication,” explained Picha. She noted that the symbol is also a personal reminder of “strength and resilience … and looking out for each other.”

Vitality & State of Nature

art around Century Gardens
Vitality & State of Nature (Marco Ovies / Burnaby Beacon)

Vitality & State of Nature was created back in 2006 as a project to add public art to different municipalities before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. Coast Salish sculptor Thomas Cannel was tasked with creating a piece of art that is representative of Burnaby’s past, and he ended up making two pieces of art: Vitality and State of Nature.

Vitality is four basal sculptures that convey “the circle of life through traditional Coast Salish imagery” and show carvings of a traditional Coast Salish family. The second piece—State of Nature—are iron grates over drainage areas all across Deer Lake Park. Each one has “abstract butterflies, deer, fish, birds, and flora.”

In an interview with the City of Burnaby, Cannel said, “After the initial visit to Deer Lake Park with my own family, I was thrilled by all of the families there at dance classes and playing on the rolling hills. This has been directly incorporated into by design, through the rolling landscape and the energy flowing through the artwork.”

Address: Deer Lake Precinct Spirit Square, 6344 Deer Lake Ave

Black Eagle Canoe

Indigenous art in Burnaby
Black Eagle Canoe (SFU Creative Services)

The Black Eagle Canoe is located at SFU, outside under the northeast corner of the Academic Quadrangle. It’s a fibreglass replica of a canoe called Loo Taas (wave eater), which was carved by Bill Reid and his assistants from a 750-year-old cedar tree. It was the first such canoe to be carved on the Northwest Coast in more than 100 years.

The canoe has called many places home like at various Canadian museums, the VanDusen Garden in Vancouver, and finally to SFU’s Burnaby Campus. In a press statement, former SFU President Andrew Petter said, “Bill Reid’s Black Eagle canoe represents the resiliency, creativity and vitality of Northwest Coast canoe cultures. We are honoured to become stewards of this canoe and to share what it represents with our students and the communities we serve.”

Address: SFU Academic Quadrangle, 8888 University Dr.

Kamui Mintara (Playground of the Gods)

Burnaby events
Marco Ovies / Burnaby Beacon

Kamui Mintara, or Playground of the Gods, was a gift given to Burnaby from its Japanese twin city of Kushiro. This sculpture in wood was created by Nuburi Toko, a renowned sculptor of the Ainu people who “are an Indigenous population living on the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, but also once occupied areas of northeastern Honshu and the Russian Islands of Sakhalin and Kuril. The Ainu worship the natural world around them; a world in which all creatures are believed to be sacred.”

“According to Ainu beliefs, all things in nature are spirits sent to the Ainu mosir (human land) from Kamuy mosir (Spirit land) disguised as bears, cranes, trees, wind, rain, and so forth. Kamuy (gods) send these spirits to humans as good or bad gifts depending on how respectful humans are to nature. If humans are not respectful, the evil gods will punish them with floods, droughts, and other natural hardships.”

These sculptures take inspiration from Northwest Totem poles but the location and title reference Mount Daisetsu in Daisetsuzan National park near the centre of Hokkaidō. The Ainu people refer to this place with many volcanic peaks as Kamui mintara (playground of the gods).

The Playground of the Gods “tells the story of people, gods and creatures living together on the earth. Many gods in their animal incarnations are present, including the brown bear, the owl, the salmon and the orca. The large sculpture of bound poles represents the ties between the Ainu and their gods. The gods are represented by the animals carved on the tall poles, and the smaller poles represent the people.” You can find the sculpture at Burnaby Mountain Park.

Address: Burnaby Mountain Park, 100 Centennial Way

Marco Ovies

Marco Ovies is Burnaby Beacon's Lifestyle Reporter Creator focusing on all things food, events, and fun things happening in the city.

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