It was thorough 25 days of hard work and determination that a totem pole representing a grizzly bear holding a copper was completed. On August 16, 2014, the totem pole, designed by Lyle Mack, was raised at Nusqu’lst. This area is the traditional territory of the Mack family and other families of the Nuxalk Nation.
Coinciding with a Mack family reunion organized by Buddy Mack and Faye Edgar and many others, the event also unveiled the memorial headstones of Gloria Smith, who was the daughter of Minnie Mack, and Lucy Mack, who was the wife of Orden Mack.
Chuck Whaley opened the event with a prayer and Jacinda Mack welcomed the hereditary chiefs, elders and guests. Due to the historical eradication of much of the Nuxalkmc because of smallpox, Mack stated that, “All of us here today are the strongest of people, we are the survivors.”
It took many people working together to complete the totem pole. Along with experienced carvers Alvin Mack and James Mack Sr., other main carvers included Alvin’s sons Lyle, Rueben, Brandon, as well as Clyde Young, Kyle Tallio, Peter Snow and Chazz Mack. The passion of the carvers and ability to collaborate well together worked to unite the Mack family and hopefully the rest of the community. Alvin Mack stated, “If we work hard together as a nation and as a people, we can do anything.”
Hereditary Chief James Mack Sr. and Alvin Mack remember as youth watching their father Willie Mack carve in their living room. They started by helping him sand and paint and they eventually learned the art and technique themselves. Lyle Mack kept his grandfather in his mind as he worked on the pole and cited him as an inspiration and reflected that, “On almost every one of his poles he carved the grizzly with the copper.” The grizzly bear is the family crest used by the Mack family.
Alvin Mack also noted that when the totem pole was raised it tilted sideways and when it was positioned in the ground it again turned a little bit. Although with some manpower it could have been straightened out to face the highway straight on, it was left in its original place watching over the Nusqu’lst valley.
Reuniting together in a positive way for the family brought excitement and stronger family connections. The Mack family is large, with relatives all over BC and beyond. Coming together in their homeland was very unifying for James Mack Sr. “I really enjoyed getting to know the family more,” he said.
Reflecting on the events that took place, Melvina Mack stated that, “We are always guided by our culture, values and traditions. We are always evolving.” Stories were told, songs were sung and dances were shared. All validation, that despite the setbacks that Colonialism has brought to Nuxalk Nation, the future of the Nation is optimistic. Undoubtedly, this is one of many poles being planned by local carvers.