Mary Agnes Capilano
A Canadian Legend
Artifact and Information Treasure Hunt
Mary Agnes Capilano: Lah-Who-Late
8x8 inch portrait oil painting on ceramic cast plate.

Mary Agnes Joe Capilano - Canadian Princess Oil Painting
This is a folk art painting of the B.C. Canadian Indian 'Princess of Peace'
Media: Ceramic square cast plate with portrait oil painted front.
Size: 8 Inches square
Artist: 1938 M Harwood
Condition: Painted image area is good, although item is deteriorating and has been smudged on the back plus it has some painted gold leaf paint repairs and pencil -mother of- re-written on back
Information on back: The tile has a charcoal stick dedication. See Below (Deteriorated)

The back of the tile has some worn out writing that may or may not have these words.
They are difficult to completely decipher. (see image)

Before Line 1
Pencil word Mother
Line 1
Mother of
Line 2
Chief Capilano
Line 3
when province?
Line 4
??ve George Henry =(Love George Henry?)
Line 5
whe?? gro????? (Extension to name?)
Line 6
?? ??????? ???osrt???? columbia
Line 7
P?????? (Pauline, Potlatch)
Line 8
??????s??n (best guess Johnston or location)

Artist Signature: M Harnood -or- M Harwood 1938

I am fairly sure that this item has a strong Canadian Historic Value.
Any suggestions or help is appreciated.

500 of the thousands of people who have contributed to the history of the lower mainland of BC.
The Capilano family is 3 of the 500 Legends of Vancouver.

Grand Father - Chief Mathias Joe Capilano
Father - William (Buffalo) Mathias Joe
Husband - Chief Joe Capilano
Son - Chief Mathias Joe Capilano
Daughter - stefany

Joe Capilano of the Squamish Nation was a wood carver who was born in the year 1840. He was a chief of the North Shore which is now called North Vancouver. Joe and Mary Capilano welcomed the first english missionaries to the west coast Capilano band. He assisted in building the first church on the now - Capilano Indian Reserve. In 1906 Joe journeyed across Canada and The Atlantic Ocean to Britian to present a petition on Indian rights and lobby for recognition of his peopleís land claims. Through a friend named Pauline Johnson he was granted audience with the King but was unable to present his petition. On his return, he was suspected for "inciting the Indian to revolt" for reporting statements and his personal assumptions alleged to have been made by King Edward.

Mary Agnes Joe Capilano was a Squamish matriarch born in the year 1836. She was the grand daughter of George Mathias who welcomed Captain George Vancouver off the Point Grey on June 13, 1792. her father was Chief Skakhult. She was known as "The Indian Princess of Peace." since she was the first-born daughter of a marriage that united two previously warring tribes, the Yaculta and the Squamish. She was a great story teller and basket weaver. She was known to use a dugout canoe to travel the First Narrows between the reserve and Vancouver. Mary Agnes Capilano had to endure the British Columbia Indian Act which claimed the area from the Capilano and gave it to the First Narrows Bridge Company. In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth became the first English monarchs to visit Western Canada. Mary stood on the roadside, in full ceremonial regalia, with her son Chief Joe Mathias when the monarchs passed them by while heading to 'honour' the new bridge. This was a difficult period for Chief Joe Jr. and Mary who was now a grandmother.

Mathias Joe Capilano is the Son of Chief Joe and Mary Capilano. A prominent squamish leader and internationally famed carver, he attended coronations of both George V and Elizabeth II, "wearing full tribal regalia." Joe Matthias was a lifelong campaigner for the rights of Native people. He was the first indian to cast native ballots in B.C. in 1949.

Pauline Johnsonís Book - Legends of Vancouver (1911), was a book of Aboriginal Stories with some from Joe and Mary.

Stefany Mathias
She has been working as a professional actor in Vancouver on TV shows like Da Vinci's Inquest, The Collector and Da Vinci: City Hall to name a few and has also worked on various independent films and shorts over the years. She has also hosted and narrated a number of documentaries and TV shows over the years, most recently she has started hosting CTV's First Story and is working on some aboriginal projects.

COINS: British Columbia Commemerative Coin Produced with Mary Capilano



This item may have been a gift intended for the King and Queen of England. This theory cannot be verified but does fit the timeframe for the visit which failed to occur before the King and Queens visit to open the Lions Gate Bridge.

QUESTION 1: Pottery Guilds were just starting in the 1940's to 1950's. So very few people were creating ceramics, mostly immigrants that were dutch or german. The name Harwood would be a clue. I can find no information online about a B.C. potter named M.Harwood.

QUESTION 2: Why is it signed with charcoal or stick? Why paint a portrait and then sign it with charcoal. This makes little sense, and the coal smudges with a touch. I figure that this was a pow-wow ceremonial done in writing, not printing which would be much easier.

QUESTION 3: I read a story about Mary Capilano having her house burn down and she lost all her possessions. This story comes from my memory, since her legend is scattered in a number of stories. My memory retention is that Mary's house burnt down and all she saved from the fire was an image of the Queen. Is it possible that she really meant an image for the queen. If Mary had this portrait and believed that the King or Queen might return some day - I believe that she would have saved a portrait of herself she could use as a gift for them.

QUESTION 4: Pow-wows had just been enacted as a legal congregation of indians during 1938. The indians would have rejoiced not being oppressed and would have celebrated their elders for this return of honour. Did potters join these celebrations of song, art and dance? Would a ceramic plate be created and painted at a pow-wow to bless the elders. Also, portraits were seen as an english art, since Joe and Joe Matthias had visited the king - did they tell Mary of the magnificent oil paintings of the royal family and did they try to duplicate their own art as a gift to the king and queen.

QUESTION 5: Many elders and families adopted or claimed the english names of George or Henry. Likely this was done to honor King Henry and show cultural allegiance to England. How many George Henry's were there in the Capilano Indian Band? Were these names solely given to elders or could anyone name their child after the king?

QUESTION 6: Although her husband and son were Chiefs and may have had a reasonable income compared to other Capilano Indians. Most accounts seem to say they were very poor, since Mary survived by selling fish and making cedar hats. Could she afford to keep a golden painted portrait of herself during her lifetime. Or could she have sold it, after living to see her son become Chief and attend a coronation without her.

QUESTION 7: Gold Paint. in 1938 was this an available color? I wonder if this could have been available or if it had to be specially mixed. Most ceramics are not painted in a gold guild tone, other than to present it as a valuable object. Plus gold would have been the highest color value, since royalty was adorned with golden crowns and golden jewellery.



My visit to the Capilano Bridge and the Historians feedback:
The piece was likely painted by a potters guild to celebrate the visit of the King and Queen. The painting is of Mary Agnes Capilano on a ceramic tile. Writing on the back was most likely done with a burnt stick at a potlatch which had recently been re-anacted as as a lawful indian gathering.

My Emails to Magdalena Moore
North Vancouver Museum and Archives
Tel: 604-990-3700 ext. 8005
Nancy Kirkpatrick, Director
North Vancouver Museum & Archives
Community History Centre - 3203 Institute Road
North Vancouver, BC V7K 3E5
Tel: 604.990.3700 ext 8001 Fax: 604.987.5688
North Van Museum suggested I find an appraiser and I could donate the item to the museum. The museum could give me a taxable donation receipt. I had difficulty finding a qualified appraiser since they suggested SeaHawk Auctions - and upon showing it to him - He could not properly determine the value.

Who would want to own this?
Canadian Museums, Capilano Bridge, UBC, Indian art historians, Squamish, People who live in Capilano North Vancouver, Someone who wishes to preserve a piece of Canadian folk art which in my personal opinion* was a gift intended for the King and Queen of England which did not transpire.

Has this been appraised?
Heffel Appraisal OA00624. - Undetermined
I have presented it to Capilano Bridge curator. (Authentic)
I have presented it to the SeaHawk Museum owner. - Undetermined


SOME OF MY EMAILS: - North Vancouver Museum & Archives - Capilano Bridge -Corporate Design & Projects - Squamish LilWat - Vancouver Fine Art - CBC Radio
Don Lott - Fort - Parks Canada -

For more info contact me :
Country Fair Cafe & Gift Shop
9143 Glover Rd & 96th Ave
Open Wed-Sun 10-4
My email is at bottom of page at
Capilano Help. 

Fort Langley Village

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