Beyond The Creater’s Vision
A conversation with Wayne Price
Ever since we all came together and we're all here. I think our policy in this matter is that there's only one race, and it’s the human race and we all share all of this. That's what I like to think.
I'm not going to stand around and be quiet. I'm going to go do something about it. If it helps a person's life then I've done my job and I was told it was going to be successful. When I first started on the coast and Alaska, it was a “no, no no” and all the people who are listening to me “no” all told me no at first. And this went on for six years. My beautiful wife, who found me one month after I sobered up, says she didn't marry me for my money. I was at the point of saying “It's not going to happen, we have to go make a living, lots of bills”. She said “Nope, keep going”. It was her hand that kept it going and I didn't give up. And we drove to Whitehorse and while I was driving down Two Mile Hill, I went past McDonald's and went through the light and I saw a sign said Sun Dog Carvers and I said, “hey, I'm going to check that out.” And that was back when Heather and Andrew Fitton had Sun Dog Carving Studio and I walked in there and they were the wildest bunch of kids have ever seen in my whole life.
Heather was just standing in the middle of this pretty wild situation and that was first time I saw them and I said “This is it.” That's my connection to the Yukon. I gave a talk there and let them know I was a Carver and little bit later they gave me a rattle making class for two weeks. The rest is history; I ended up working five years at the Sun Dog, and watched them evolve. We did the dugout canoe on Egg Island in 2009, and the Yukon is such a beautiful place and the people are so beautiful there. It was easy. It's the best drive in the world, so that was my connection to the Yukon. We did the dugout on egg island, we took 19 young people to that island and for 10 weeks we paddled the dugout. And that was part of the vision as well, to remove them. See you cannot have healthy trees in unhealthy dirt. It's never going to happen. You have to take the trees to healthy dirt and you make healthy trees and that's what I did.
I removed them from the Whitehorse environment out onto the island and there were a lot of things going against us.
I said everybody is betting against us, nobody thinks we're going to make this but if we do, they will come to our camp. And they did, they came, they all came to our camp, to see what we were doing out there... many came. At the end of my vision, the Creator told me; when I hear the songs of our ancestors coming across the water sung by the young people I've completed my vision. And I got to hear that. Still powerful, because when you complete a vision given to you by the Creator and you see it help people and you saved some lives it gives life a purpose. Being a full-blown alcoholic and compared to the work I do now, I know the difference, I know what's the better way.
The Creator has given us a natural, beautiful, Temple. We don't need all that alcohol stuff. We just don't need it. It won't ever do us any good. That's my connection to the Yukon. We made a lot of things possible. Part of a vision is the reason I came into recovery in the first place. Now, the coast has come alive, and we’re getting a lot of support for what they said “No” to before. It's a complete turnaround because it works.
There's going to be changes, and there has to be good role models. Long time ago the aunties took care of the nieces, uncles took care of their nephews. There's a natural order and a lot of that has disappeared now. We can bring it back, It's not over. It's just dormant.
Below: The completed hand-carved duggout canoe on its innaugural journey. Youth had an opportunity to spend two weeks appreciating all the carvers working on the duggout. One day the youth were able to interview Wayne and this was the story they were told.
My name is Wayne G Price, I'm from Haines Alaska, my family comes from Kake. I was raised in my father's land. I'm Eagle Wolf Shark Thunderbird. It's good to be here today. That's why there is an eagle on my paddle.
Who taught you how to carve?
I started carving when I was 12 years old at the Alaskan Indian Arts in Haines and I had quite a few teachers. I had Leo Jacobs, Ed Casco, John Hagen, Jenny Lynn, Smith Clifford Thomas, Johnny Avataq, Nathan Jackson was involved there for a little while.
Back in those days, we had to do to six months worth of drawing before you could even touch a carving knife; lots of drawing first. Then I got to touch my first carving knife and then about a half hour later, I got my first six stitches.
What was your favorite thing the carve so far?
Obviously, it has to be a Dugout. I really love the challenge of making a Dugout canoe. I've done 38 totem poles and this is my 12th Dugout in my career so far. Burn wood boxes, balls, rattles, spoons, masks, I've done it all. If it's Northwest Coast Native Art I probably made it or probably know a little bit about it.
I like the freedom of being my own boss. I'm allowed to do what I want, when I want, how I want and there's a lot of freedom in that. There is a lot of discipline as well and you have to make your own self get up and you have to be able to make some artwork if you're going to make a living being an artist.
It's very competitive nowadays and you got to get in there. You got to study hard and get good quick because there's a lot more people; which is good. There's a lot more artists coming up now and I support them all.