Graham Richard — A 40-foot monumental pole will join Naay I’waans, the centuries-old Haida house in the village of Gasa’aan, late this summer. The Past-Present-Future Pole is a project directed by the community and funded with donations from Rasmuson Foundation and the Sealaska Corporation.
The final design was inspired by the community with the help of a carving team that spoke to as many people as it could to determine what should be on the pole. Four carvers came up with a design based on the community’s ideas and then reworked it in consultation with the Organized Village of Kasaan council. With a final design approved, carver Gitajang Stormy Hamar and apprentice St’igíinii Harley Bell-Holter started work in June. Their work tells the story of the community’s past, present, and future through three large main figures interwoven with several smaller ones.
The bottom figure is a representation of the Son-I-Hat longhouse. Above it, the ‘past’ is shown as a pregnant woman with a design commonly found on petroglyphs in the area on her belly. Above that in the ‘present’, a person emerges from a cockle holding a copper shield with a crab design. Finally, the ‘future’ is represented as a figure with scales and feathers and topped by a hat with several daajing sgilga potlatch rings on it. These rings show the affluence and generosity of Gasa’aan and the top figure embodies the importance of the community’s people, environment, and the hope for a healthy future.
“The main figure they’re housed in, represents our desire to listen well now, so we can have a good future,” explained Gitajang. “Up between the ears of the main ‘future’ figure are a man and woman. Inside the ears themselves are children. Between the ‘future’ figure’s hands and under its chin salmon eggs surround a baby’s face.”
As a final touch a rope runs through the past, present and future, tying them all together.
The Organized Village of Kasaan council is hoping to raise the Past-Present-Future Pole before September 3, 2016 when the refurbished longhouse, Naay I’waans, will be rededicated. The community will raise the new pole close to a carving shed at the head of a trail to the Naay I’waans longhouse.