The Williams Lake Indian Band is preparing to do their part to beautify Williams Lake with several new art projects, including a statue of the city’s namesake, Chief William.
WLIB Chief Willie Sellars said that this move is just one of the latest in a series of new endeavours the band has embarked on, including the recent opening of Indigenous Bloom cannabis dispensary and the winning of the specific land claim court case against Canada in April of last year. The move to commission public art for the community, however, was inspired in part by the WLIB’s upcoming downtown office move to its new location in the old FYidoctors building, which is currently being renovated for the purpose.
“We’ve got a number of different fun, exciting and awesome things going on,” Sellars said.
The statue of Chief William is a life-sized wood carving, made by Ken Sheen — the man behind the three cowboy statues located around the Y, and is a striking resemblance of one of the WLIB’s most influential chiefs to this day. Sellars said that honouring the man the lake is named for shows their respect for both him and what he was able to do for their people.
Chief William’s influence was felt well beyond his community, however, Sellars added, including within the lakecity and beyond to neighbouring First Nations’ communities. This statue, in Sellars mind, is an important part of reconciliation and recognizing local leaders that, to this point, have gone unrecognized.
“We talk about contributing artwork to the city and there should be more First Nations artwork and that was kind of the importance around us getting that (statue) commissioned,” Sellars said. “It’s something we wanted to get done. Artwork is big for us and seeing more artwork in the City of Williams Lake is a big one on our agenda.”
The statue’s ultimate home is still being decided, Sellars said, with a location in Boitanio Park, their new office in the downtown or in their new band administration office in Sugar Cane, construction of which is said to begin within the next year, all being considered. Sellars said the most important considerations with its ultimate location is ensuring it will be safe and well visited. Vandalism of other public artworks similar to this statue has been a persistent problem within the city for years now.
The statue is not the only public artwork the band has commissioned. Sellars said that they also have several other projects in the works, including a recycled steel statue of a horse they plan to install in front of their new office after they move in.
Local city muralist Dwayne Davis assisted with the finishing touches on the carving of the statue and said that the statue, with the base, is around seven feet tall. Ken Sheen was commissioned for the project through Pioneer Log Homes and did “the lion’s share of the work,” Davis said.
Sheen created the statue using an old drawing of Chief William and several of the few pictures of this influential leader. The resulting likeness, in his eyes, is striking for a wood statue. Davis was also brought on to possibly paint the statues, as he does for others around the Y, though he said the decision to do so is up to the WLIB, ultimately.
“I think it’s very nice. It has a kind of regal presence to it and I think it’s nice to commemorate Chief William,” Davis said, adding it’s important for people to remember the region’s history through art.