Codfish Lure with Wolf Design, c. 1970 by Simon Charlie (1919-2005), Cowichan
Old Style Codfish Lure with Wolf Design, c. 1970 by Simon Charlie (1919-2005), Cowichan red cedar, pigment, twine 4.5” tall x 13.5” long x 3” deep 8.5” tall on stand
Indigenous method of catching halibut on the northwest coast of North America mixes expert craftsmanship with spirituality. The practice of making halibut hooks has been handed down through the generations. Carvers used their hands to determine the angles and dimensions, which some believe allowed them to target fish of different sizes. This hook depicts a wolf, which has profound significance to the tribes of the West Coast. Wolves represent power and prestige, strength and dignity, and are the central figure in the Winter ceremonial dances.
Simon Charlie (Hwunumetse’ in his native Hul’q’umi’num’ language), was born in 1920 near Duncan, British Columbia. He was a member of the Cowichan Tribes, which constitute the largest single First Nation Band in British Columbia. Much like the renowned Susan Point, Simon’s work played a significant role in the revival, preservation, and recent flourishing of traditional Coast Salish art. He was key figure in the promotion of traditional Coast Salish designs, and spent much of his time helping other Coast Salish artists connect to their heritage through the artistic styles of their ancestors.
Simon had a great passion for keeping the traditions, language, arts, and culture of his people alive for future generations. This passion sparked an unmatched dedication to passing his knowledge regarding traditional Coast Salish methods and designs on to younger Coast Salish artists. As a result, many of the Coast Salish master carvers of today were once apprentices of Simon Charlie.
His work teaching the heritage, culture, and traditions of the Cowichan Coast Salish people to both First Nations and non-First Nations individuals earned Simon many honours prior to his death in 2005. The most notable of these honours include the National Centennial Medal (1967), the Order of British Columbia (2001), and the Order of Canada (2003).
Simon once estimated that he had carved approximately 22 logging truckloads of cedar trees throughout his thirty-year career. The pieces that were produced from these logs can be found across both Canada and the United States, as well as in Holland, New Zealand, Australia, South America, Europe, and Japan. As this demonstrates, the work of Simon Charlie was truly world-renowned.