Totem in the forest

Tiffany Boyko slams the adze into the log to gain her first cedar chip as onlookers cheer her on.
Tiffany Boyko slams the adze into the log to gain her first cedar chip as onlookers cheer her on.
Tiffany Boyko slams the adze into the log to gain her first cedar chip as onlookers cheer her on.

Coming out of a winter hibernation and enjoying the solitude and seafood along the beaches is a natural activity for grizzly bears and their cubs, and Old Massett Village Council and the Tluu Xaada Naay Society aim to bring back that world through carved figures on a monumental pole that will be raised at Taaw Hill.

In early December, between rain showers, Kilthguulans Christian White announced a new project to community members who gathered around a 52-foot cedar log. The rain-slick yellow cedar log lay on its side with its heartwood exposed in the back yard of  Tluu Xaada Naay.

“We were taught by our ancestors to clean the tree and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two days. It rained and cleaned the tree,” announced Kilthguulans as the bark, phloem, cambium and xylem curling’s lay in the puddles beneath the tree. In the small crowd, also witnessing the event were seven students on hand to bless the tree and make their first cuts for the new Hliialang Llnaagee gin gyaa.ang kidaa Totem in the Forest project. 

“The project is a partnership with the Tluu Xaada Naay Society and the Old Massett Village Council. It also includes a sign project as well,” said Othgaljad Patricia Moore, Economic Development Planner for OMVC. “Half of the carvers are women, and the other are men,” said Othgaljad. “We have a great crew! It’s going to be a beauty!” The project is planning to raise the pole and sign on June 21, 2017.

The young carvers are between the ages of 19 to 29 and will be enrolled with North West Community College, attend class, and work with artist Kilthguulans and his son SGul Vernon White this winter. Carving apprentices are: Daisy White, Shaylana Brown, Jennica Bell, Tiffany Boyko, Jay Bellis, Captain Stewart-Burton, Shane Bell, and Paul Biron.

The original frontal pole design was created by a great uncle to Charles Edenshaw. The 52’ house frontal pole features a female grizzly bear with her two cubs on her body and at the bottom, a male grizzly which forms the door way through which people would enter the house. The original frontal pole was carved by Sqiltcange, who was from Chaatl. In 1911, Emily Carr saw a photograph of the pole and was inspired to create a studio oil painting based on the photo.

Carver, Kilthguulans says that the frontal pole identified as belonging to the House for a Large Crowd of People in McDonald’s Haida Monumental Art will be the main inspiration for the new pole.

“The original pole was maybe 40 feet but this one will be at least 50 feet,” he said. The carvings on the new pole will be inspired by the Grizzly bear hunter story and will also feature a raven and eagle story, and some watchmen. “It won’t be a replica,” he said, over the phone. “It is going to be a new interpretation.”

In a full circle: from monumental pole, to photograph, to painting, and back to a monumental pole, the cycle is complete. “We’re doing this for the community, for you,” said Kilthguulans, and added that the carving team would need support and nourishment from the community and they would welcome that kind of support!

“Gud san glans Robert Davidson and Chief 7idansuu Jim Hart provided support for this project. I’m so grateful to have their support,” acknowledging Glenys Snow Dymond; the proposal writer, “for being a very strong advocate for those with disabilities,” said Othgaljad. The project is supported by Old Massett Village Council, Tluu Xaada Naay Society, Skills Link, TriCorp, Vancouver Foundation, Canada and the BC Arts Council.

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