Nature is where, as a child, Beau first discovered play, joy and the magic of the natural world around him. He always had a connection to the plants, animals and living things in the forest and how we are all living in each other’s house interacting with one another and relying on each other.

Beau’s Journey

Beau Wagner is a Coast Salish canoe carver and artist. He apprenticed under Stz’uminus Elder and Master Carver ShYa’QuThut (Elmer Sampson) and has been carving for over 30 years. Beau was born and raised in Nanaimo and lives there with his wife and children.

Beau began wood carving as a young child and built his first skin on frame kayak when he was 15. As a youth he received great healing from being on the ocean. He later went to school to become a shipwright and finally found his way back to the Land through working with cedar. He now creates a variety of works including dugout canoes, masks, bentwood boxes, bowls, welcome posts, rattles, and paddles. His work continues to evolve as the cedar connects him with the snawayalth (wisdom).

As a descendant of residential school survivors, Beau has faced many challenges caused by generational trauma. When he met his teacher, ShYa’QuThut, he found love, belonging, joy and kindness for the first time in his life. Through his apprenticeship, Beau was able to heal and focus on his gifts. ShYa’QuThut welcomed Beau as family, sharing his home and naming him a relative. Beau lived off the Land with him for five years learning sacred teachings while carving at Thuqmin (Shell Beach) until ShYa’QuThut’s passing.

Beau walks in two worlds. His art is an embodiment of his teachings, and the snawayalth shared with him daily by his teacher. Beau’s work is in relationship with the Land and with the human and non-human relatives he transforms through it. He uses a connection to the other world that inspires visions that in turn inspire healing. He finds an avenue through art to release that energy, while connecting to the planet through cedar and listening to the other realm. This sacred way of being is ingrained in his work and in how he lives every day. His connection to culture and his ability to create a safe space for others who are struggling is part of his ability to facilitate healing through art. Beau is an inspiration to many youth who he has taught over the years and he continues to offer his humble support to students of all ages through his artwork, mentorship and workshops. Beau has worked with thousands of students of all ages offering Cedar and Me field trips, in class carving workshops, medicine walks, and cultural talks. Beau has also been invited to speak at events and share his program with the public.

Inspired by his teacher ShYa’QuThut’s wish that his traditional teachings could be passed on to youths as a way of revitalizing Coast Salish canoe culture and fostering understanding and respect for Coast Salish knowledge, Beau began offering the Healing Canoe Program in the spring of 2019. Since then he has offered the program annually, carving 4 canoes with students over the course of the school year. Students participate in carving the canoe with Beau as he shares teachings from the Land. Participants from Footholds Therapy Centre Nanaimo and K-12 classes from schools throughout School District 68 have shared in this unique and transformational cultural program. Beau’s vision is to honour his teacher and reinvigorate canoe carving culture with a fleet of canoes being carved at Thuqmin (Shell Beach).

His film, Our Teacher, follows Beau as in September of 2021 Beau set out on a path to carve a canoe on Gabriola Island, British Columbia (Canada) with the local elementary school students. As the children began to carve along with him, the cedar began releasing its life force, transforming the world around it with kindness, love, joy, and belonging. “Our Teacher” has been nominated for awards in multiple film festivals and is now available for viewing online. For viewers in Canada, watch here. For viewers in the U.S., watch here.

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