The Laichwiltach Family Life Society unveiled something very special at their facility on 4th Avenue last week.
In front of dozens of onlookers last Friday, the cover was pulled off a new totem pole by Greg Henderson, Kwakwaka’wakw artist from the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, son of the late Ernie Henderson and grandson of the late master carver Sam Henderson.
“I’m so honoured and humbled to have been chosen to create this for Laichwiltach Family Life Society,” Hendson told the crowd after thanking them for coming to be a part of the celebration. “This experience has humbled me so much, and I’ve gained so much at the same time.
“Watching Audrey (Wilson, executive director of Laichwiltach Family Life Society) and her staff and what they do for our people and our children and our future – this is what this (pole) represents. It’s an honour to have been chosen to create this.”
Henderson went on to explain the meaning of the pole.
“The bottom represents all mothers. Mothers that we cherish. They help hold us into what we are.
“She also represents Mother Earth, which we stand upon and nourishes us.”
The mother figure at the bottom of the pole is embracing two children, which represent the future, Henderson said, as well as the children of that future, and what Laichwiltach Family Life Society stands for and embraces.
Above the children is a cedar tree.
“It’s such a big part of our people,” Henderson said. “We built our homes, we built our canoes, we clothed ourselves, and we used this tree to reach to the other side, that spiritual side.”
But it also represents the idea of family.
The tree has four levels, which represent ancestors, grandparents, parents, and children, Henderson told the crowd.
“The tree is growing out of the cedar hat of this great woman who represents Mother Earth,” he said, “and the first level of the tree represents our ancestors, our roots, our strength, our people who have been here for thousands of years.
“And the next level represents our grandparents,” he said, “who took what they learned from our ancestors and passed it on to the next level – our parents.”
Our grandparents, he said, then passed that strength and knowledge onto us. We, in turn will pass it on to our children, the top level of the tree.
At the top of the pole is a sun.
“That’s our future. That is now. We shine bright as a people, and every year we get stronger together. As a human nation, we stand here together, and regardless of the colour of our skin, we stand here as one.”
Executive director of the Laichwiltach Family Life Society, Audrey Wilson, then thanked the First Peoples Cultural Council for funding the project and all the staff at Laichwiltach Family Life Society for their additional fundraising efforts as well as Western Forest Products for donating the log to be carved.
She also thanked Henderson, “for his awesome work,” as she looked up at the pole.
“He really gave a lot of thought to what he was going to create,” she said, “and kept in mind what the society’s vision is, which is what is important to us as an organization.”
Find out what the society stands for and does for the community by visiting them online at lfls.ca.