Special cedar hat stolen from Aboriginal art store in Campbell River

Karly Blats, February 25, 2019

Ernie Smith, co-owner of Awatin Aboriginal Art, hopes to see a woven hat again after his shop’s break in. (Ernie Smith/Facebook photo)

Campbell River, BC — 

Ehattesaht member Ernie Smith is hoping to see his traditional Nuu-chah-nulth woven cedar hat again after it was stolen from his Campbell River art store.

Awatin Aboriginal Art was broken into around 2 a.m. on Feb. 6, when criminals smashed three windows to get in, causing extensive damage to the store and art pieces.

“There was a lot of damage. There was a print that was done by Mark Henderson, we’ll never be able to get another one, it was damaged beyond repair,” Smith said. “Also there was a $4,000 door damaged. Fortunately we’re able to get the artist to repair it. It was a door by Michael Price, it is beautifully carved.”

Although all the damage is upsetting to Smith, he’s most disturbed by the loss of his hat.

“It's a traditional Nuu-chah-nulth hat made by Andrea Little…it was really finely woven and she had some grey and black fabric woven into it,” Smith said. “It’s very unique. I don’t think anybody else will have a hat like that, so it’s going to be hard for them to sell because the eagle feather on it, there’s a really large eagle feather and an abalone shell.”

Smith said it is illegal to sell eagle feathers in B.C. under conservation law.

He said a friend had noticed the hat on a website in Nanaimo but the posting was quickly taken down.

“It wasn’t there very long so they must have seen our (social media) posting because it got shared like wildfire. Well, over 300 people shared it and there’s still people sharing it,” Smith said. “Hopefully they have a hard time selling it and hopefully I get it back one of these days…it was very special to me.”

Smith said the social media postings also garnered the attention of the Courtenay-based lawyer Michael McCubbin, of Sinclare & Company, who has offered to help Smith in his search free of charge.

“He contacted us to help out by taking in the hat with no strings attached, so if somebody wants to turn it in to him they will get it back to us,” Smith said. “If they’re having a hard time selling it maybe they’ll turn it in with no strings attached.”

McCubbin can be reached at 250-338-6766, m.mccubbin@sinclarelaw.ca or Sinclare & Company, c/o Michael McCubbin, 200-575 10th St, Courtenay, B.C., V9N 1P9.

Smith said new camera systems with night vision have been installed at the shop following the break in that he can watch at home from a laptop.