Hlgadg̱uhlgaya: carving deeply

The beaver's tail nears completion.
The beaver’s tail nears completion on the United pole.

By Graham Richard. Photos by Tawla Jaad —

Figures are beginning to take shape on the ‘United’ pole in Tluu Naay Canoe house, at ay Llnagaay. Chip-by-chip, slender cedar slices fall away and collect in the newly created creases and corners of the growing design. The 54-foot pole is now laying face down so the team of carvers can complete the features rounding towards the back – wings, tails and toes.

Carving all the pole figures in the round has created some unusual challenges for the carvers. The placement of some figures have compelled carvers to lie under the pole, cutting upwards, and at times above their heads, which is an awkward and tiring position to work in.

Assistant carver Tim Boyko jokes that it’s been tough propping himself up on a buoy to get below the massive cedar. Today, he sits comfortably, defining the fingers of the north-facing watchman, one of three, that tops the pole. He acknowledges the role that the original Skidegate Dogfish pole, also known as the Bill Reid pole, has played inspiring him and as reference for solving problems as they arise on the new pole.

Originally raised at Hlg̱aagilda in 1978, the Dogfish pole was lowered in 2014 and was brought to ay Llnagaay where it rests a canoe-length away from the ‘United’ pole. The Dogfish pole’s clever clefts carved decades ago by Iihljiwaas Bill Reid have provided tips and guidance as the carvers proceed through the complexities of the new design.

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