18-foot totem pole finds home west of Williams Lake

An 18-foot totem pole has been raised in a Tsilhqot’in community earlier than planned in hopes its presence will lift the spirits of community members feeling down as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse said it was initially planned to keep the totem covered until the grand opening of his community’s new, $4.5 million gas bar, Chilcotin River Trading. However, that event has been delayed due to COVID-19.

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“With the pandemic … there’s not been a lot of hope. There’s been a lot of fear.”

A small ceremony was held at the base of the totem pole, approximately 100 kilometres west of Williams Lake, Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Tl’etinqox (Anaham) First Nation.

Carved by Nuxalk Nation master carver Skip Saunders, the exquisite totem featuring the transformation of a human to raven at the top beneath other animals such as a beaver, red-tailed hawk, killer whale, bear and frog was completed in the fall of 2017.

“There are not a lot of things our people can be positive about right now and that pole is something that can provide that for them, so this provides hope to our members that we unveiled,” Alphonse said.

At the small ceremony, one key element was missing, Alphonse said: a drum song to bring the totem pole to life.

The song will be included in an official community event later this spring.

Originally destined for the traditional territory of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) at Boitanio Park in downtown Williams Lake, the totem was rejected by WLFN.
 

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