“My grandfather put the rivets in and I took them out,” reflects Squamish Nation resident Danny Mellish as he looks up at the metal towers of the Lions Gate Bridge and surveys his accomplishments. Looking forward to continuing this tradition with his own children, he adds, “There are other ironworking families that go back generations. Hopefully my son will carry on the tradition.”
Danny didn’t aspire to be an Ironworker, but coincidence brought him to a profession he is now encouraging others to consider. “It’s a good living. You get to travel, meet other people, and see other places and other cities ... and you can say you built that stadium or that bridge,” he says.
Sitting high above the water in a small caged contraption called a spider lift, Danny recalls his beginnings in ironwork. A friend’s father owned an ironworking company. “I was at his house all summer and he said, ‘If you’re going to stay here you’re going to work.’” After apprenticing under him for five years, Danny headed off to British Columbia Institute of Technology. He was curious about learning other trades, but after opening a book of course descriptions directly to the ironworking page, he gave himself over to fate.
Now with nearly 12 years of experience under his belt, Danny is a highly respected Ironworker and has inspired many Indigenous people to become apprentices. He says the best part of his job is meeting new people. Oftentimes after work, crew members will have barbeques with each others’ families and play lacrosse together. “There’s a family atmosphere. Sure we yell at each other and stuff like that, but we’re all friends,” says Danny.
There aren’t many occupations where you can point to buildings and say, “I built that.” But that’s exactly what Danny and fellow ironworkers have. Rhyming off the locations he’s visited, including Washington, New York and Brooklyn, where he busted rivets and replaced steel on the Manhattan Bridge, he is proud to know he’ll be able to share that with his children some day.