Well-known Kómoks First Nation member Andy Everson will receive a Queen Elizabeth II Royal Diamond Jubilee medal on Aug. 10.
The 49-year-old, a local artist, singer and dancer among other things, received a phone call from the BC Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association — which nominated him for the medal — just weeks ago.
“When I found out I was actually really surprised because — (laughs) I didn’t expect it at all, it was definitely a big surprise,” recalled Everson, adding his first thoughts were of family members. “What I thought of immediately was my grandparents because in the past they had been awarded different medals like this… if they were still around it would have been a really big deal (to them).
“It’s kind of like I’m just continuing on what they were doing, and so it was a validation in that regard.”
Everson noted he was nominated because of one of his pieces of art.
He created Remembrance in 2005 in recognition of Canada’s Year of the Veteran. The giclée print is a stylized poppy design made up of four thunderbirds.
“I really wanted to, through that piece, raise awareness to the contributions of aboriginal veterans in Canada and the way that aboriginal veterans were historically treated upon returning from war and… the difficulties that they faced most other Canadian veterans didn’t face coming back,” explained Everson, adding he offered the rights to the design to the BC Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association.
“I thought that recognizing the aboriginal veterans is an important thing, and for an association like that they’re able to — they do that continually, so I thought that the design could be best used by them.”
Although Everson said he was chosen for the medal because of Remembrance, he has also been an active community member, and has worked to uphold the traditions of the K’ómoks and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw First Nations through much of what he’s done in his life.
He sings traditional songs and performs ceremonial dances at potlatches, as well as with a number of different dance groups like the well-known local K’umugwe Dancers, and the Victoria-based Le-La-La Dancers.
In fact, he went to Taiwan with the Le-La-La Dancers to share his culture last summer.
He obtained a Master’s degree in anthropology, which he uses to research his heritage and traditions. This degree also inspired him to create Copper Canoe Inc. through which he created multimedia aboriginal language CDs.
At a young age, Everson started drawing Northwest Coast art, and his first serious attempt was in 1990 when he designed and painted chilkat-style blankets for use in potlatch dancing.
Since then, he has created numerous pieces which are in galleries all over B.C. and even in the U.S.
Everson will receive the medal during a ceremony at the K’ómoks Big House on Aug. 10.
A modest Everson noted he’s pleased to be chosen for the medal, but is still getting used to accepting recognition for his work in the community.
“In some ways you feel like you do (deserve it), and other ways, you know, I can think of so many other people that are equally deserving,” said Everson. “You take these kinds of recognition of your contributions, you take it to heart and you accept it, and you just have to learn how to accept these types of things.”