While helping with his mother’s funeral arrangements some six years ago, Snuneymuxw entrepreneur Tom Simpson wanted to find a way to acknowledge and honour her passing with a casket that would reflect her aboriginal heritage.
Much to his surprise, he could find no one who built an indigenous product of that nature to lay his beloved mother to rest. So Simpson set out on his own, slowly teaching himself to cut and carve salvaged western red cedar in the workshop of his Nanaimo home. He learned to transform the salvaged wood into custom-made Aboriginal caskets that could be painted and carved by First Nations artists in the traditions of the deceased.
Today, Simpson’s home-based business Cedar Creek Caskets is thriving, with people calling from all over Vancouver Island, the north coast, and lower mainland. In a typical year, Simpson and his one helper build and sell 70 to 80 caskets at a cost of about $13,000 per unit. “It’s been largely by word of mouth. It’s an eco-friendly product. There’s no decorative metal or chemicals. From an eco-perspective, it’s not necessary. I use natural oils,” says Simpson.
Simpson says a growing number of non-Native people are attracted to his eco-friendly caskets. “It’s a growing part of my little company. More and more non-Native families are choosing it for that reason,” he said.
Check out Cedar Creek Caskets at ccreek.ca.