Story poles created at Christina Living Arts Centre

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
May 9th, 2010

In the first arts and culture event to be hosted at the Christina Living Arts Centre, over 500 students from across the Boundary region experienced totem pole carving firsthand. Over five days that started last Monday, May 3, internationally renowned carver Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) from Squamish and his team immersed the youth in the traditions of the First Nations people while sharing their skills.

Aboriginal Cultural Explorations week at the Living Arts Centre featured a celebration of the First Nations presence in the region. The students from the School District 51 experienced carving, native games and stories, traditional foods such as smoked salmon (smoked on the site), and a chance to see the two story poles being carved. Xwalacktun explained that since totem poles are not a tradition of this region, the poles are instead called story poles. Joining Xwalacktun to lead the carving were Ihuuyaahu, and Drew Atkins. The event was organized by Bob Grieve, who gained a new name during the week – Talks A Lot. Grieve was christened with his new name in the traditional First Nations manner with the students as witness to his change.

Xwalacktun explained that the design of the story pole was created prior to the carving week via a new tradition – email. The totems have figures representing the three tribes who used this area – the Ktunaxa, Sin’ixit, and the Okanagan – and also includes the Metis symbol. The largest (an 18 foot high cedar log) will become part of the Living Arts Centre, and the smaller 12 foot one will go to Grand Forks to honour the students who participated in the week.

“I am told by the head of the local Metis Society that this kind of inter-tribal co-operation, along with the Metis, is a model for others to aspire to throughout Canada. We are proud to be able to host the event, needless to say,” said Bob Dupee, director with the Christina Lake Artisans Society. “Funding from RDKB Director Grace McGregor helped to make it all possible.”

McGregor was on hand Friday, May 7 to thank the carvers who made this unique cultural experience possible on behalf of the Christina Lake community. Dupee also presented Xwalucktun with a gift from his glass studio as special thanks for the carver’s contributions.

Watch the video link above to explore the new story pole and hear comments!

Categories: Arts and Culture