Rainbow Crow Brings Fire to The People
In the beginning, the world was an incredibly beautiful place for all living things.
Artist: Judy Chartrand
Location: 13359 Old Yale Road, Surrey
Category: Private collection
Year Installed: 2023
About the Artwork
In the beginning, the world was an incredibly beautiful place for all living things. It was a paradise until the Creator thought of snow and introduced that to the world. It got very cold, and the people started to die. In desperation, those who were able called the council and gathered to discuss who should be sent as a messenger to ask the Creator for relief. They decided to ask Rainbow Crow because he was the only one strong and agile enough to make the long and arduous journey to the Creator.
When asked, Rainbow Crow was honored to bring the message of the people to the Creator. It was an exceptionally long and tiring trip to reach the sky place of the Creator. When he finally reached it, he waited patiently on a cloud until the sun shone on his rainbow-colored feathers and he began to softly sing until he caught the attention of the Creator. Rainbow Crow bowed his head and spoke quietly telling the Creator that he came with a message from the people. He said, “They are freezing and are seeking relief from the cold”. The people would like you to change it back to the way it was without snow. The Creator replied that once he thought up snow, he was not able to change it, but would reward him with a gift of fire. He took a long stick and poked it into the sun and gave it to Rainbow Crow with a warning that he must travel fast before the flame burns out.
Rainbow Crow carried the flaming stick in his beak and flew as fast as he could back to the people. As he flew, the stick burned hot, and the flame got closer and closer turning Rainbow Crow’s feathers black with soot. The caustic ash also scorched his voice forever. When he arrived back to the people with fire, they were forever grateful and honored Crow by promising to never hunt him again. To the people, Rainbow Crow is still the most beautiful bird in the land and if you look closely today, you can still see prisms of rainbow colors hidden within the black feathers. The moral of this story is about strength, endurance, and sacrifice, much like the history of Old Yale Road and the people of the Stó: lo Nation whose pre-contact trail routes intertwines with parts of it.
About the Artist
Judy Chartrand is a Manitoba Cree artist born in Kamloops and raised in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. After receiving encouragement from two First Nations counselors, she applied to college, where she began her career as a ceramic artist. Chartrand’s early works were autobiographical, situating herself and her family in the history of Vancouver. Her works frequently confront issues of post-colonialism, social inequity and Indigenous knowledge expressed through a variety of mixed mediums. Her work is exhibited and collected nationally and internationally.