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New home for Indigenous language totem pole in Port Alberni

Language pole was a joint carving project in partnership with the United Nations
Chuutsqa Layla Rorick photographs components of n’aasn’aas?aqsa, the language pole, at the ‘closing of the eyes’ ceremony at the Discovery Maritime Centre on Aug. 13, 2021. Rorick created an information sheet for the Hesquiaht Language Program on each of the figures that make up the pole. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Language Revitalization Pole that started as a United Nations project in 2019 has found a name and a permanent home.

“This is a gift first to humanity,” said master carver Tim Paul, who directed the project. “This is history.”

The language pole project started in March 2019 when an 800-year-old tree that had been lying on the forest floor for 50 years was trucked to Port Alberni from the woods near Bamfield. Master carver Tim Paul assembled a team of Indigenous carvers, many from Nuu-chah-nulth Territory, and the team has been working on and off since then to bring n’aasnaas?aqsa to life.

The totem depicts 10 figures of nature as well as others, and features carving on the back too.

A closing of the eyes ceremony was held Aug. 13, 2021 and the pole was wrapped in anticipation of its move this week. It will be trucked Sept. 16 to its new resting place beside the San Group helipad, next Millstone Park at the corner of Roger Street and Victoria Quay. Construction crews dug a large hole last week to put in a cement base where the pole will finally rest.

The pole will be unveiled on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 9 a.m. Road closures in the area will be in effect between 9 a.m. and noon to allow for the ceremony.

Also on Sept. 18 Paul will sing some of the songs that belong to him so he may gift them to Nuu-chah-nulth youth to use.

“It’s the start of the process of giving children their identity back,” he said.

RELATED: Port Alberni language pole becomes ‘spiritual journey’

Carver Tim Paul, centre, stands with some of the next generation of Indigenous people who he hopes will carry on Nuu-chah-nulth carving traditions. They were gathered behind n’aasn’aas?aqsa, the language pole that Paul and a team of carvers have created over the past two and a half years. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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