From the Archives: Bookwus Trophy

Jenny Seeman
Bookwus Mask carving by Dr. Peter Smart

Occasionally, treasures from the rich history of Hatley Park and Royal Roads find their back to the site through donations to the university archives or museum.

One such treasure is the Bookwus Trophy. The trophy is a carving of a mask in the Kwakuitl style and depicts Bookwus, the Wild Man of the Woods. According to the inscription on the inside of the mask, Bookwus “was a non-human Kwakiutl character living in the woods. His life in the wilderness made him a strong and fast runner. He could leap over lines of people trying to catch him.”  

Given Bookwus’ characteristics, the trophy made an ideal presentation to the Royal Roads cadet considered the most improved cross-country runner. The award was given annually between 1983 and 1995, when the military college closed and the names of the 13 cadets who received the award are inscribed on plates around the base.

The trophy is an excellent piece of craftsmanship and was carved in 1983 by Dr. Peter Smart, a professor at Royal Roads Military College, as well as coach of the cross-country team. He used a piece of fallen red cedar from the forest at Royal Roads to create the trophy. Dr. Smart had a close friendship with Kwakwaka’wakw carver, Chief Henry Hunt, who taught him how to carve in the Kwakuitl style. In his own words, Dr. Smart later described his carvings as tribute art, dedicated to the memory of a great friend.

Dr. Smart was a very popular teacher at the military college, where he taught mathematics from 1967 to 1989. Many ex-cadets remember him fondly and stayed in touch with him throughout their careers. He had a reputation for making an often difficult subject comprehensible and taught with an infectious enthusiasm for the subject.

More than a remarkable artwork, the trophy is a connection to an important figure in Royal Roads Military College history. Dr. Smart died in 2019 and his family recently donated the trophy to the RRU museum collection.

Bookwus mask carving by Dr. Peter Smart

If you have items that you would like to donate to the archives or museum at Royal Roads University, contact Jenny Seeman, Archives Manager, ext. 4122.