Friday, November 5, 2010

Firing Totem Poles

An interesting display at Stanley Park is that of the totem poles. Here is a lasting tribute to the people of the First Nations who first settled this area.

This gateway, and two others, were made by Susan Point of the Musqueam nation. This is important because the totem poles that you will see in a moment are not representative of the Coast Salish. They didn't make totem poles. Their carving talents were shown in such things as house posts and arches.

If you were so fortunate as to be invited into one of their lodges, an acrchway such as this might have greeted you.

This is called a Beaver Crest Pole and it was carved in 1987 by NISGA'A artist, Robert Tait along with his son Isaac, brother Robert and nephew Ron Telek.

It depicts a Tait family legend of how the eagle clan adopted the beaver as their crest and how the eagle and raven met and shared the sky. For the whole story you can go to the park and read the plaque in front.

The single pole you see here is the Oscar Maltipi Pole carved in 1968.  A Kwakwaka'wakw artist Oscar Maltipi trained at the Royal B.C. Museum under artist and teacher Henry Hunt.
This is entitled the Chief Wakas Pole. Traditionally in Kwakwaka'wakw ceremonies talking sticks, or carved staffs, were held by the people making speeches on behalf of the chief. This pole represents the talking stick used in an  Owikeno story relating to, guess who, Chief Wakas. The original pole was in front of Chief Wakas' house in Alert Bay in the 1890s. This one was carved by Nimpkish artist Doug Cramner in 1987.

Totem poles were like a coat of arms for the First Nations of British Columbia. They are unique to the North West coast of BC and lower Alaska. These carvings from red cedar were not worshipped nor were they regarded as idols. Rather each one tells a story - real or mythical.

This is a replica of a Thunderbird house post that had been carved by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Charles James in the early 1900s.This one was created by Tony Hunt in 1987 to replace the original which is in the Vancouver museum.

Haida artist Bill Reid with assistant Werner True carved this repllica of Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole in 1964. Don Yeomans had to recarve the moon face in 1998. It depicts his heriditary crests as well as events in his life. The board at the top covered a cavity that contained the chief's remains on the original pole.

The original pole was raised in the Haida Village of Skidegate about 1870 to honour the Raven Chief of Skedans.

The totem poles section of the park is an awe inspiring site and one well worth the effort to find.

Stanley Park and the area has been home to many different nationalities. In the 1860s Coal Harbour was settled by many Hawaiian families. They had a small community known as Kanaka Ranch, a name taken from their Polynesian heritage. The community was sustained by them growing fruits and vegetables and fishing and hunting. They produced charcoal and sold it to the Hastings Mill where the men workd and the children went to school.

At one point above the seawall is a plaque.

This slab was set here in 1863 or 1865, I can't read it clearly. It was set by the Royal Engineers and used as a survey point by the Royal Navy Survey Ship H.M.S. Egeria.

Not far from that is the Nine O'Clock Gun.

This is a naval type twelve pound muzzle loader and was cast at Woolwich England in 1816. (The Woolwich Factory is now known as the Royal Arsenal.) The crests of King George III and the Earl of Mulgrave, Master General of Ordance, are engraved on the barrel. It was brought to Vancouver about 1894.

This gun is one of sixteen that was given to the 'provinces of Canada by the British Government in 1856 (11 years before Confederation). Three of those guns made it to the West Coast.

Two guns were outside the legislative buildings in Victoria but those were melted down in 1940 as part of the War effort. This one resided for a while in Nanaimo to quell discord between nervous miners and the native population. From what I've read it was more of a visual - and auditory - deterrent rather than a weapon. Next it went to Esquimalt where unrest brewed due to the conflict between Britain and the United States over an international border line.

Once that hullabaloo was over with the gun was placed at Stanley Park and first fired on October 5, 1898. The story goes that at one time a dynamite explosion was set off nightly at nine pm to aid in navigation. There are apparently a couple of different versions of why but all I will tell you is that every night at nine o'clock the gun fires. It is heard at Granville and Hastings at five seconds after; in Marpole 35 seconds after; in New Westminster a full minute after and even in Mission at more than three minutes after the hour. I will have to try to listen for it.

A few more observations of my time yesterday at Stanley Park. I hope you enjoyed it and I wish all of you a great weekend.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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