Terrace, BC – Coast Mountain College (CMTN) is proud to unveil a new design for Orange Shirt Day by Gitxsan artist Frances Campbell, titled “They Tried to Bury Us. They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds.”
The design depicts a flower from seed to bloom with formline elements, including a salmon egg.
“This design represents hope and honours children past, present, and future. In our nation, children are considered to be the flowers and we tend to them, help them grow, and hold them close,” says Frances.
“I was inspired to create this piece a few years ago when the news of the 215 unmarked graves were found in Kamloops. Around that time, someone shared with me the phrase ‘They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.’
“So many amazing artists have since shared their ideas of what that phrase means to them. So many people in my family and nation attended residential school and some never survived but they still carry their messages. Many did survive and I am inspired by their strength.”
Frances is a Gitxsan artist born and raised in Hazelton, BC, in the community of Gitanmaax. She is a member of the Gisgaast (Fireweed) clan in the Wilp (House) of Gutgwinuuxs (Snowy Owl). She has been a practicing artist since 2015 and is now in the second year of her Fine Arts Diploma at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
Frances says that a highlight of being in the Freda Diesing program is that she is learning more about herself and re-discovering a connection with her family and culture.
“[Being a student] has taught me to be proud of who I am and learn about myself and accept myself,” she says.
When asked how she feels about her design being chosen for CMTN’s Orange Shirt Day campaign and to be worn by faculty, staff, and students in the CMTN community, Frances says, “[I am honoured], especially since I am part of this community as a second-year student at Freda Diesing.”
Frances says that, in the coming year, she looks forward to sharing her art pieces with everyone at the art shows in November, February, and April.
This piece is a tribute to the Indigenous children who never made it out of residential school but still brought their light and truth to the world. It also honours the Indigenous children who physically made it out and have fought daily to strengthen their spirits and regain their independence, families and culture.
Children are said to be the flowers - Mijag̱alee - of our people. The seed was buried and grew into something beautiful. Salmon are an integral part of Indigenous life. The salmon egg "seed" in this design symbolizes the beginning of life, with a promise of abundance and nourishment, both physically and spiritually.
Frances Campbell, Gitxsan Nation
Frances Campbell is a Gitxsan artist born and raised in Hazelton, B.C., in the community of Gitanmaax. She is a member of the Gisgaast (Fireweed) clan in the Wilp (House) of Gutgwinuuxs (Snowy Owl). Frances currently resides on the traditional territory of the Ts’msyen in the community of Kitsumkalum and has been a practicing artist since 2015.
Frances has a background in writing, illustration, graphic design and beading. In 2022 she started a diploma program in First Nations Fine Art at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, where she won a student bursary and two awards.
Her art practice is creative energy fueled by culture, spiritual beliefs, strength, resilience, and passion. She believes in lifelong learning and adapting as an artist while staying true to her Gitxsan roots.
Executive Director, External Relations