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REPORTING · 29th November 2014
Walter McFarlane
Mount Elizabeth Middle and Secondary School students were given the opportunity to bear witness to the raising of a totem pole within their school on Thursday, November 20th, carved by First Nations artist, Nathan Wilson. The pole was raised at the entrance to the school, adjacent to the Administration Office. First Nations Chiefs were present in full regalia.

“I am incredibly humbled,” said Nathan Wilson, the artist who carved the pole. He had a lot of thanks to give out. “This has been my number one dream since I first started carving. I knew when I started in 2009, this is what I wanted to do for the community. It has been a very long road getting here. I’m glad to finally see this project where it is now.”

Wilson, working with his father and uncle performed a blessing of the pole and awoke the spirit within it.

Katherine Johnson and Sheila Duncan from the Totem Pole Committee explained the history of the event. “We would have a visual symbol, in our building, that reminds us, every time we enter, of the importance of establishing awareness of the First Nation’s Culture in our community,” said Johnson.

They decided it would be good to a put a totem pole in the entrance of the school. They wanted one which symbolized friendship, pride, unity and encouraged respect, awareness and understanding of the Haisla Nation Heritage and Culture.

“The totem pole is an opportunity for our First Nations students to identify with their connections to their traditions in a visual form and foster the development of their pride and their sense of belonging and appreciation for their own art and culture and history and develop in them a sense of confidence,” said Johnson.

She stated many people have come together in the activities around the pole which was being raised.

Duncan was pleased with Wilson’s teaching of the students and thanked the businesses which made this happen. She stated they wanted the pole to represent teamwork. The school works hard as a part of the community team which is responsible for raising children.

The design for the pole is the Raven and the Beaver. “In our community, we have four crests. We have Raven, Eagle, Beaver and Blackfish. In our community, when we put up a feast hall, the Beaver and Ravens work together when we put up a feast,” said Duncan.

She announced the name of the pole: PA LA GU WALA. This means: ‘working together.’

When the time was right, PA LA GU WALA was carried through the school from the big gym where most of the ceremony was taking place to the entrance of the school where it was raised.

“It’s an honour to bear witness to this amazing celebration today. This is who we are and we are proud.” said Superintendent of School District 82, Katherine McIntosh. “This is a symbol of our partnership, to walk together, to learn from each other and make sure that our schools are welcoming and reflective of all of our students and who they are. This is a symbol of relationship, respect, commitment and the future.”

She thanked everyone who was involved in carving the pole and for the invitation.

Agnes Casgrain, District Principal for Aboriginal Education expressed it was a great day for a number of reasons. “Schools are a place of learning, it’s a place you come to hone your skills, to learn new things and Nathan came to us as a learner,” said Casgrain.

“Its pieces like this that bring everybody together,” said Wilson. “It’s our identity; it’s what we’ve been doing for a millennia.”

Following the raising of the pole, there was dancing and a feast for the students and the guests.