tofino artist carl martin carves the o'neill cold water classic trophy

Tofino artist Carl Martin creates the trophy for the Cold Water Classic.

the letter 'C'Carl Martin has been carving since the 1960’s, and along with his brothers Joe Martin and the late Billy Martin, is responsible for keeping the art of canoe making alive on the west coast. Carl makes his living by guiding and carving, and has worked on countless projects that have included house poles, totem poles, traditional fishing tools, canoes and paddles.

Carl carries the name Hiiskuuthsinapshiilthl, He Comes From War, for his hereditary chief and oldest brother Robert Martin, or Nuukmiis. Carl spent all his time carving, hunting, and fishing with his father, Robert Martin Sr., when he was alive, and now no one living knows more about the place names of Clayoquot Sound than him. He worked on a project with the Ahousaht and Hesquiaht that resulted in over 3000 place names being recorded.

During the Meares Island court case Carl worked closely with archaeologists and anthropologists to provide evidence that showed his people have lived on the island since time immemorial. He has climbed every peak in the sound except for Tl’aakishtke’iish, Standing Out On Its Own, but that is on his list. He has been a part of six documentaries, including The First Scientists, Heartland My People, and Saltwater People. He is a skilled hunter, gatherer, fisherman, guide, expert on traditional food and medicine preparation, and is very generous with his knowledge, skills and time. Hiishkaa can always be found out on his ha’huulthlii, land and sea, using it.

by Cam Baker, Norma Dryden, and Carl Martin. Cam is a musician and filmmaker, and recently volunteered to document the Carving On The Edge Festival that Norma spearheaded and Carl was featured in, demonstrating canoe carving.

When Carl was first asked to carve a paddle as a trophy for the O’Neill Cold Water Classic he didn’t realize the significance of the event. He had never really paid much attention to surfing, actually he had never even watched anyone surf before the competition.

For Carl the paddle is full of memories and significance. He was first taught to carve paddles by his uncle Walter Williams. The paddle was an important tool in the Nuu-chah-nulth culture. It was a necessity of life as it provided travel, food and protection. Carl prefers to carve his paddles in yew wood. It is a strong and resilient wood that gives the paddle a powerful flex. The yew tree is revered in the Nuu-chah-nulth culture. You weren’t allowed to just go and cut one down. You had to have a good reason, and show it respect and thanks. They grow slow and twisted so to find one that is big enough and straight enough to get a paddle out of is rare.

Carl is honoured to once again carve the trophy for this year’s Cold Water Classic. He was happy that it stayed in the community last year when Pete Devries won it and is excited to see where it goes this year.

by Adam Buskard

First Nations Culture

Tofino Time October 2010

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Tofino artist Carl Martin carves a traditional yew wood canoe paddle as the trophy for this years’ O'Neill Cold Water Classic Canada surf competion in Tofino.


tofino time october 2010