X̌e̕x̌e̕ Sq̓upa̓stul u tu T̓hewum Qa̕ ̓ i ̓ K̓wat̓lkwa |  Sacred Gathering of the Freshwater and Saltwater


Over the course of 2020 and 2021 artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun,  created new artwork for the Beban Park Pool grounds, where people of all ages splash, practice and  play. This update to the recreation facility marks its importance as a public gathering place designed to promote health,  wellness and community connection. Because the pool’s playful water features are  shaped like frogs and fish, the project explores the theme of the estuary. Inspired by the  Nanaimo River Estuary, Eliot designed giant wall paintings and a series of colourful fabric banners  about the life that exists here in Nanaimo, on the lands of the Snuneymuxw people. This vibrant  artwork honours and celebrates waters, land, plants, animals and humans, and points to how  all of these elements are deeply connected.

Snuneymuxw knowledge, stories, and language come from this land and have existed for  thousands of years. Eliot’s artwork, which is inspired by teachings from his  late great-grandmother, Dr. Ellen White, Kwulasulwut,  and other mentors, brings forward knowledge, stories, and language, so that we can all learn  about and appreciate the rich history and aliveness of this territory, and come to  understand our place in the world and our relationships to each other in a new way.

To accompany the artwork and make it widely accessible, the project includes a free take-away booklet, available at the pool, which features White-Hill’s version of the Snuneymuxw stories his murals are based on, written especially for a young audience. The stories, including Origin of the K̓wal̓uxw (Dog Salmon) Run, and Story of the Q̓ullhánumucun (Killer Whale) Transformation, are accompanied by colouring pages based on the artwork. QR codes on interpretive signs at the pool and in the booklet link to audio recordings of White-Hill telling the stories and pronouncing the Hul’q’umi’num names of the beings in the artwork. 

Download the Booklet

There are four key areas of the artwork at the pool:

Q̓ullhánumucun (Killer Whale) Transformation  

The paintings on the four concrete pillars tell a story of transformation. Eliot tells this story as it was passed down by his late great-grandmother, Dr. Ellen White, Kwulasulwut. She spoke about how a group of children from the Snuneymuxw community transformed themselves into a Q̓ullhánumucun (kull-ha-nuh-mutt-sun – killer whale). This story carries with it teachings about  the importance of educating youth and what can happen if adults fail to do so. The pose shown in this design refers to the traditional Coast Salish way to express gratitude, by holding your hands up  in front of you, palms facing inward.

Listen to the story

K̓wal̓uxw (Dog Salmon) Run

The mural that wraps around the wall by the waterslide is inspired by the K̓wal̓uxw (kwah-luh-H – dog salmon) run. The Dog Salmon and the  Snuneymuxw have a sacred connection. In one version of the origin story of the Dog Salmon run  on the Nanaimo River, it is told that a Snuneymuxw ancestor married into the Dog Salmon people. That relationship  is the cause of the salmon run. The  use of the number four in the pattern of this design is important, and refers to Coast Salish protocol. Four is a sacred number and things are done in fours.

Listen to the story


Eliot White-Hill, Being of the Estuary, 2021

Beings of the Estuary Mural

This mural reflects the life that exists in the
  Nanaimo River Estuary, especially the eelgrass ecosystem and annual herring run. Many beings, including humans, rely upon the  Estuary and have done so for thousands of years. These seven beings  are depicted with their names in Hul'q'umi'num'.

Lhuq̓us (l-huck-us) eelgrass

Musuqw (muh-suck) crab

P̓uwi̕ (puh-wee) flounder

Shes (sheh-ss) sea lion

Slhewut̓ (ss-l-hay-what) herring

St̓ul̓xwut̓h (stuhl-H-wuh-th) octopus

Tumulqh (tum-uh-l-kl-h) star fish

Beings of the Estuary Banners

The banners above the pool honour the beings of the Estuary, who exist in the water, on the land, and in the sky.  All of the realms are interconnected. The Estuary is a gathering place of the elements, energies, beings, and people. These beings are helpers in many  different ways.

Sq̓e:t̓l (sk-eh-kl) river otter

Qumut (kuh-mutt) hooded merganser duck

Slhewut̓ (ss-l-hay-what) herring

S̓kwlhey̓ (sk-wuhl-hey) littleneck clams

Yux̆wule̓ (yuh-H-wul-leh) bald eagle

K̓wal̓uxw (kwah-luh-H) dog salmon

Smuq̓wa̕ (smuh-kwah) heron 

Artist Biography

Eliot White-Hill is a Coast Salish artist who comes from the White family of Snuneymuxw, the Rice family of  Penelakut and with roots in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth world through the Hamilton  family of Hupacasath from whom he carries the name  Kwaayas. He is a graduate of Vancouver Island University,  and is a storyteller, published author and artist.


For this project, White-Hill consulted with the Snuneymuxw Elders Advisory Council, with Hul’q’umi’num’ language teacher Elder Gary Manson, Elder William White, and Joan Brown. A team was convened to support White-Hill, including Nanaimo Art Gallery curator Jesse Birch, designer Cory Landels, and painters Jesse Campbell and Becky Thiessen. 



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