This 23 foot Nuu-chah-nulth totem pole weighed 6200 pounds and took the carvers 55 12+ hour days to carve. Gordon Dick was commissioned by Tseshaht First Nation to carve the totem pole that was raised Friday April 30th in front of where the old Alberni Residential School used to be. Gordon Dick remembers tearing down the residential school building that his grandparents, uncles and aunts attended. A number of atrocities occurred to First Nations children from all over the province who had to attend by government law. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has recently expired and was put in place to help the Residential school survivors heal from the multiple trauma’s endured though out the years they attended the residential schools. Gordon Dick believes he can carve today because of the survivors who held on to their culture despite not being able to practice traditions of First Nations culture. It is a lifetime journey of healing for the Residential school survivors and Tseshaht First Nation hopes to build a wellness center. Creating this totem pole was an effort to help turn the page from past wounds and rebuild First Nations culture.
At the top of the pole is a Thunderbird which is often placed at the top of poles because it is a powerful bird from the spirit world. There are many stories of the thunderbird and how it helped to keep balance with resources on the west coast. The middle section of the pole is the first female ancestor to honor women. There are stories in Nuu-chah-nulth culture about her witnessing the thunderbird transform into a man. The man was in a thunderbird cloak. She is holding a drum with an Art Thompson design of a male and female wolf to remember his courage in speaking out about the abuses which occurred to him at Alberni Residential school. (Please read this New Article by Quintin Winks for the Alberni Valley Times. for information on the recognition of Art Thompson.) The bottom figure is of a Sea Wolf which is a killer whale transforming into a wolf that symbolizes family and protection. To view more photos of the pole go to the Ahtsik Native Art Gallery Facebook page.
The Head carver of this pole commissioned by Tseshaht First Nation is Gordon Dick, owner of Ahtsik Native Art Gallery. He first worked under Tim Paul to carve the Totem Poles at the Tseshaht Tempo Gas Station On Pacific Rim Highway, Tim Paul was on hand to provide guidance to Gordon for this pole. Gordon is from the Tseshaht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.
Erich Glendale is a Kwakwaka’wkw carver and lives on the Tseshaht reserve. Erich has carved wood for many years and this is the first time he worked on a wood piece this scale.
Alex Spence came in the help during the last week to carve and paint the pole. He is from the Haida Nation.