SIAT researchers develop and curate exhibition at Galiano Island’s Yellowhouse Art Centre


School of Interactive Arts & Technology, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Staff

Rosemary Georgeson surrounded by siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u s, photo by Dayna Szyndrowski
July 05, 2022

Written by Clare Slipiec

The Water We Call Home, an exhibition featuring a series of films created by School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) post-doctoral researcher and filmmaker Dr. Jessica Hallenbeck, Coast Salish and Sahtu Dene artist Rosemary Georgeson, SIAT professor Dr. Kate Hennessyand team opens at Galiano Island’s Yellowhouse Art Centre this month.

The exhibition is co-curated by Georgeson, Hallenbeck, and Hennessy, in collaboration with a circle of Indigenous women from around the Salish Sea called siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u s—Eva Wilson (Coast Salish), Christie Lee Charles (xʷməθkʷəy̓ə), Fay Blaney (Xwe'malhkwu), Karen Charlie (Spune’luxutth) and Kimi Haxton (Potowatomi)—who returned to Galiano Island to share stories of connection and survival in order to begin healing an extended family after 100 years of disconnection.

Over the last two years, they have gathered with family members and residents of Galiano Island to share connections to fish, water, and family around the Salish Sea.

During these gatherings, siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u s shared personal stories, harvested and prepared traditional foods, and reconnected to family—significant acts of re-presencing and the first gatherings of these family members on Galiano Island in over 100 years.

The Water We Call Home features a series of films about these gatherings by artist Richard Wilson, Hallenbeck, Georgeson, Hennessy, and their collaborators and also includes new works in photography by Dene photographer Kali Spitzer and a sound installation by Wilson.

Cousins work to help build a traditional cooking pit, Dionisio, photo by Kali Spitzer

The project is the continuation of a lifetime of research by Georgeson and emerges from her decade-long collaboration with Hallenbeck. Their work together has led to the recovery of the identities of Georgeson’s ancestral grandmothers and to a reconnection with their descendants.

Visitors and participants to the exhibition are encouraged to consider what decolonization means in a broader web of relationships and how families can bring back connections to ancestors and family on lands and water that continue to be owned by others.

The exhibition is an invitation to everyone to witness the enduring strength of Indigenous women’s connections to fish, water, and family, and to envision a future where Indigenous identity is structured through water and family rather than colonial law.

“This work by Indigenous women is changing the story, it is bringing healing back to a place that was ripped apart and turned over by impacts of colonialism, the racial attitudes of the old ones, the old grandfathers, in how they took the mothers away from the children,” says Georgeson. “We came back. We gave voice to these things that happened.”

The exhibition opens at Galiano Island’s Yellowhouse Art Centre with an opening reception for the general public on July 23rd.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited into a familiar kitchen-like space to listen to the voices of siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u s and their extended family members, drink tea, view photo albums, and experience stories of the water and land they call home. Visitors are also invited to watch films that have emerged during the gatherings and to view new photographs of a traditional food harvest and preparation gathering by siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u s and family by Dene photographer Kali Spitzer.

Lucie, Penelakut Elder Augie Sylvester, and Janice Wilson drum at Dionisio, photo by Kali Spitzer

On July 24th, there will be an invitation-only symposium where honoured speakers whose work is connected to Galiano Island and the Salish Sea will gather together in a witnessed conversation to discuss the exhibition and reflect on how it relates to their own experiences and work.

The speakers will include three circles of individuals each coming together separately to share: siyēye nii 'u tthu sut'ku'luts | siyēye tun’i ‘utl sqwun’u, a group of academics, and a group of policymakers. It will also be witnessed by four Indigenous leaders and knowledge holders. The symposium will be recorded so that it can be widely shared and taken back to communities.

This exhibition and symposium are funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the SFU Community Engaged Research Institute, the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council Digitization Grant, the First Peoples Cultural Council, Decolonizing Water, the Capital Regional District, and Heritage BC.


Opening Reception (open to the public)
Date: July 23, 2022
Time: 7:00 PM PDT
Location: Yellowhouse Art Centre, 2517 Sturdies Bay Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0, Canada

Dates: Open Tuesdays-Sundays from July 23-August 21, 2022
Time: 11:00 AM-4:00 PM PDT
Location: Yellowhouse Art Centre, 2517 Sturdies Bay Rd, Galiano Island, BC V0N 1P0, Canada

Symposium (invitation only; recorded)
Date: July 24, 2022
Time: 10:00 AM PDT
Location: South End Community Hall, Galiano Island


For more information about the exhibition visit: The Water We Call Home


Sisters Jeannine and Janet Georgeson try raw clam alongside Penelakut Knowledge Holder Richard Charlie, at Dionisio, photo by Kali Spitzer