The museum’s new Thunderbird Bear pole is now complete. A little over a year ago the original pole, carved in the 1960s for B.C.’s hundredth anniversary celebrations, was taken down and ceremonially burned.
Bill Henderson, who’s father Sam carved the original pole, and his nephew Junior Henderson worked towards reincarnating the pole in the months that followed.
“I’m glad I did it,” Bill said. “After everything was done, it was something to watch it being burned and giving back. And then for us to reincarnate the new one, it was very touching, my heart was there. I’m so proud of it now, the way it looks.”
The museum commissioned the pole to be done with funding from the B.C. Arts Council and the Rotary Club. Museum staff have been on site throughout the carving process to document the project which will be presented as a living history documentary.
“It is amazing how smoothly they work, how they can see that vision in the wood and bring it to life,” said Sandra Parish, executive director at the museum.
Henderson did his first carving at seven-years-old. He was 16 when his father carved the centennial pole and he did the painting for the project.
Everything he knows he learned from his father and now he is passing on his knowledge to his nephew.
“I know dad would be very proud of us, what we reincarnated of his work,” Henderson said.
Working from photos of the original pole, Henderson and Junior replicated it as best they could.
Though Henderson wouldn’t usually paint the entire pole white, the original pole had a white background and he wanted them to be as close as possible.
“I never did like the white background on the old poles,” he said. “I’d rather just have the wood, but when I did the colouring on it it turned out perfect.”
Throughout the process Henderson felt connected not only to his father, but to his brother Mark as well, who Henderson said would have been involved in the project if he was still around.
In a back room at the carving shop he found paints that Mark had picked out for a project and decided to use them on the pole.
“There was just enough for us to finish the pole, it worked out really neat,” he said.
The thunderbird and the bear are the crests of Henderson’s mother’s family, the Quocksisters. He said there are many stories associated with the thunderbird.
It came down from the peaks of mountains and was so powerful it could pick up a killer whale and when it flapped its wings it sounded like thunder.
Henderson and Parish are planning to raise the pole on May 20, the day before Sam Henderson’s birthday.
“I can’t wait until it goes up,” Bill said. “It came full circle and back to life.”