The search for family, led Indigenous artist Brendan Polito from Toronto, Ont. to Stellaquo, B.C.
Under a shaded tent, he could be found at the Fraser Lake soccer fields celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day with hundreds of others Monday, June 21.
“We all learn through ancestral teachings,” Polito said behind a table chockful of hand-made art, including intricate carvings of masks, fans, pipes and even traditional fillet knives made from various elements of nature.
Just several weeks earlier, Polito said it was the first time he had ever worked with cottonwood as he showed how easy it was to peel back the soft material.
“Everything single thing that you eat, you become of,” he said, explaining the meaning behind a cottonwood mask symbolizing a deer and human he had yet to complete by adding a fur headpiece.
“Most people don’t psychologically see that, but every piece of nourishment that goes into you, you become a part of it, and the deer is one of the most significant foods from around here.”
Other animals and insects carved by Polito’s included a raven, frogs, eagles, salmon, butterflies and dragonflies.
Some of them symbolize a transformation of change, reflection or learning, he said.
Polito had moved to Stellaquo from Toronto to try and find his biological mother several years ago but was unsuccessful.
“Once I came up here, one of my adopted family members, my uncle, was a master carver, and I got to see a lot of his books,” Polito, however, said.
“He passed away about five years before I moved up here, but I got to see all of his art books and everything, so I started keeping all of his artwork alive by mixing all of his and a lot of mine [techniques].”