Master carver Carey Newman holds his two-year-old daughter Adelyn shortly after 100 people helped raise his 26-foot totem 'Na' mima' at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre on Regina Avenue.

Second of three pillars rises at native friendship centre

A new totem pole has taken root outside the Victoria Native Friendship Centre after a ceremony today

Holding his daughter, master carver Carey Newman watched as 100 volunteers heaved on lines, slowly lifting his 26-foot Thunderbird-capped totem to the sky.

When crews secured the totem to the ground and it took its place outside the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the 37-year-old artist could finally see his work as it was meant to be – tall and upright in the world. He could also finally sleep.

“It was barely enough time. I worked through the night last night, and worked through the night before,” Newman said. “Then just before the rise, I noticed part of a figure’s nose had no paint.”

After six weeks of frenetic work to finish the piece to today’s deadline, and minutes before the totem raising ceremony, Newman dabbed on the final spots of colour and dried it with a hairdryer.

Following a ceremony with Kwakwaaka’wakw Nation elders, scores of young people braved the cold rain and pulled ropes weaved through pulleys in a choreographed lift that went off without a hitch.

The totem represents the Kwakwaaka’wakw Nation and sits near a pole installed last year representing the Coast Salish, also carved by Newman. A third totem planned for next year will represent the third First Nation family of Vancouver Island, the Nuu-chah-nulth.

“We are honouring the three nations of Vancouver Island and this (ceremony) is about hornouring those nations,” said Bruce Parisian, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. “This is one of the most important cultural events we have here. (Totems) are symbols of what happens in our community.”

Both totems are cut from the same tree, an 800-year-old cedar from the Nimpkish Valley and donated by the Kwakwaaka’wakw people. The cedar was six feet thick at its butt.

Carving the totem was an integral part of the Eagle project, a job and education readiness program at VNFC for youth and young adults. About 70 youth participated in hands-on carving of the pole over the past year, from the point of a raw log to where Newman’s practiced hand needed to take over.

“I’m pleased it got finished. I’m proud of the work the kids did,” Newman said. “Seeing it go up is a whole new experience. I’m used to seeing it on its back. Now I’m seeing it for the first time the way it was intended to be.”

The totem depicts a frog and a double-headed serpent on the bottom, wolves up the side, a mother and child, a whale, a bear and a Thunderbird (eagle) at the peak. Newman calls it “Na’ mima,” meaning “people of one kind.” He says the project was an intensely personal totem that traces the story of his family.

Newman, from a lineage of carvers, took inspiration too from his great-great grandfather Charlie James, a famed carver who helped teach Mungo Martin, himself famous for his collection of totems at Thunderbird Park outside the the Royal B.C. Museum.

“I took a few cues, some inspiration from the way (Charlie James) does the bear and the eagle, and the way the whale wraps around the totem,” he said. “It’s pieced together from a personal perspective. It’s built around my family.”

For more on the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, see vnfc.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay’s only candy shop closing for good on Friday

Sweet Delights Candy Store going out of business

Significant donation boosts Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s most ambitious fundraising campaign

Townline’s $600,000 donation helps purchase new 3 Telsa MRI for Royal Jubilee Hospital

Saanich Police say bubbling pavement poses no threat to public

Resident reports water coming from cracked pavement at Cedar Hill Road and Cedar Hill Cross Road

Rickter Scale: Early morning ear worm resonates

The Rickter Scale is a regular column

Camosun College team working to turn Indigenous art into virtual reality

Expert team will scan Victoria Indigenous artist Carey Newman’s work The Witness Blanket

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the proposed changes for ICBC?

Tuesday’s provincial budget predicted a shift from shortfall to surplus in wake… Continue reading

First case of COVID-19 in B.C. has fully recovered, health officer says

Three other cases are symptom-free and expected to test negative soon

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

Island wildlife rescue centre sees 9 poisoned birds since January

MARS trying to fundraise for ‘rigorous and expensive’ lead poisoning treatment

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees temporarily as anti-pipeline blockades drag on

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto

VIDEO: Knife-wielding man arrested after barricading himself in Lower Mainland Walmart

A man had barricaded himself in the freezer section of the fish area at a Walmart in Richmond

Budget 2020: Weaver ‘delighted,’ minority B.C. NDP stable

Project spending soars along with B.C.’s capital debt

Most Read