Yux’wey’lupton – or Clarence “Butch” Dick – received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Royal Roads University for his work as an artist and educator.
“I was deeply touched by the recognition,” said Dick, who was one of two leaders to receive the honor at the university’s fall 2021 convocation on November 19.
Royal Roads also paid tribute to Lillian Howard, who “has been at the forefront of the defense of the rights of Indigenous peoples in British Columbia and Canada” for five decades before her death in October. Howard was a member of the Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nation and was of Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit ancestry.
“We will miss you, but your life of action has planted and nurtured strong roots across the country. Your contributions – to justice, health, the environment and reconciliation – will be remembered and will continue to empower and awaken minds to the rights of indigenous peoples in the future, ”a statement read. about Howard from college.
Dick is originally from the Songhees Nation and has spent decades teaching Indigenous art in public schools, designing Indigenous education programs, and working on the revitalization of Indigenous languages at the university level. He is also a husband and a great-grandfather.
“Royal Roads owes a great deal to Yux’wey’lupton, a true visionary guide and knowledge keeper,” read a November 15 university press release.
“Butch is known to be a bridge builder, creating strong and lasting bonds between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within this community. Through his art, his words and his teachings, he is a creator of peaceful conciliatory action and inspires others every day.
Dick spoke to IndigiNews about working with students and the changes he has seen over time in the education system. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Jenessa Joy Klukas: Today you receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Royal Roads – (congratulations!) – in recognition of your work as an artist and educator. Can you talk about what this means to you?
Clarence “Butch” Dick: It was a great honor and I was deeply touched by this recognition.
I have been involved in education most of my life, and that was also not part of a big plan – just the way things have been in my life, I ended up becoming an educator in different ways.
JJK: Royal Roads describes you as an educator and knowledge keeper. I’m curious what these words mean to you.
CBD: I have been working as a knowledge keeper for some time. I wouldn’t describe myself as a knowledge keeper, just an Elder [who] learned by experience.
JJK: Is there anything you would like people to understand about your own education?
I went to residential school. and also Indian Day School, which probably left me with a lack of ability to progress. So education has always been difficult for me, which at least has helped me defend the interests of First Nations students.
JJK: Thanks for sharing this. Can you tell me how you became an artist?
CBD: I’ve always been able to draw and create art, which started with sketching, and that guided me. As for wanting to know more about art, it is only after [going to] Vancouver art school I realized I didn’t know enough about First Nations art. First Nations Art started another step in my journey to learn more about First Nations art, especially the Coast Salish people – which I learned at Camosun College.
JJK: I understand you spent 25 years teaching Aboriginal art in public schools in the Victoria area. Is it correct?
CBD: Yes, in the Greater Victoria School District. At first they called us instructors. Then, First Nations art became part of the school curriculum. Then they made us teachers. I’ve taught pretty much every school in Victoria.
JJK: Do you still teach?
CBD: No, I retired. Reluctantly, because, you know, I liked to work. I enjoyed being involved in education. But I’m still involved as a board member for School District 61. And, of course, Royal Roads University and the Indigenous Perspectives Society.
JJK: What has rewarded you the most about working in public schools?
CBD: Now that I’m retired, you know, the recognition of the students is uplifting. The students come to me quite often and thank me for being their teacher at some point, either at UVic [University of Victoria], or the school district. I constantly meet people I taught in District 61. And sure enough, they all grew up in their own families, but they still remember me as a teacher.
JJK: Did you also teach at UVic?
CBD: Dr. Lorna Williams asked me to help with a program called “Indigenous Methods of Teaching and Learning”… a voluntary program for teachers [education] graduates. This was a non-credit program that provided knowledge on how to work with First Nations students.
JJK: Going back to public schools for a second, what was the hardest part, working in public schools?
CBD: In teaching First Nations art, acceptance is always a challenge, and not just for teachers, but also for principals and students. And just realizing what knowledge they have about First Nations people… other than what’s in the media and everything. Try to put them aside.
JJK: Have you seen any changes over time in this school system?
CBD: I especially think that this year there is a progressive movement to come. People talk about indigenization, colonization, reconciliation and a lot of other things. And there is so much that people can talk about.
JJK: You were telling me a bit about your experience with UVic, can you tell me about your work with Royal Roads?
CBD: I was involved with the Heron people [Circle]. It is like a council of the wise. We sit down and discuss the things Royal Roads brings up. We talk about our history and our education and compare it with education today. [Royal Roads] have a very large number of First Nations graduates from across Canada. It shows how far we’ve come.
You are looking at a number of people who work not only at UVic but also students. Things are gradually changing.
The main goal in my mind is to work with students who have a lot of difficulty with education and to try to bring them to a level that they are comfortable with. In my experience with the school system, I see how different things were in my time compared to today. It’s more a question of opportunity.
JJK: Was there anything that you found particularly difficult to work with universities?
CBD: I think the challenge for me was to move from teaching in the school district to teaching at UVic – they were very different. The languages are different and the way of approaching things is different. I have taught at all levels of the school system. Going to college was a huge challenge for me.
JJK: Have you been able to see any [other] change over time when working with universities?
CBD: I think there have been a lot of changes, it’s probably due to the fact that there are so many First Nations champions working at UVic and Camosun – I think a lot of it thanks to people like Lorna Williams , who championed the language program at UVic and opened up a lot of different spaces.
Different parts of UVic have become more attractive to First Nations students. Many of the students I have seen go through the system, teach in the system, or work for their country as educators.
JJK: In the declaration provided by Royal Roads, they mentioned that you had designed an aboriginal education program. Who are you designing it for? And how was this experience for you?
CBD: It was quite different. I worked with a lady named Karin Clark, who worked for the school district in curriculum design. The first book we published was on First Nations arts and culture. We worked with First Nations drumming, singing and storytelling. We attached stories to different things we could do.
[For example], to brighten up the teaching, we would talk about transportation, and we would explain how canoes were carved and constructed, and what they were used for. Thus, students have experience with First Nations art and how designs are made.
We were talking about the different parts of the culture that we are allowed to share and what we are not – to show that we have limits.
JJK: Was it a good experience for you to create this program?
CBD: It was quite intimidating and stimulating, all the overtime to explain, page by page.
We were focusing on all the different things, like the masks. We would explain why masks are used and how they are put together – using layers and layers of art to give students the experience of creating a mask they could wear.
We would do this at the same time as canoe cutouts. I have seen students on the news run from school with canoes and realize that the program has traveled across Canada.
JJK: It’s wonderful! What have you been working on now since your retirement? Do you have any current projects?
CBD: I do a lot of comfort sketching because it relaxes me. And I love cartoons. I design logos for people. I did a drawing for the school district years ago which was a 4 × 4 acrylic painting. We will use it for a conference. I find things I’m comfortable with and don’t feel pressured into doing things.
JJK: Is there anything in particular that you would like to be remembered?
CBD: I focus on the family – I am still very, very honored to be a father, grandfather and great grandfather. Other than that, my aspirations are for me to be able to create when I am asked to create and when I want to do it. I would like to be remembered as an Elder and a person.
JJK: Thanks for sharing and agreeing to talk to me! Congratulations, again, on the honorary doctorate.