The Nuxalk Nation and BC Parks came together on June 24 in a historic collaboration to unveil a totem pole and pair of carved doors in traditional Nuxalk territory (Stuix), which is also the home of Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park.
Area Supervisor Steven Hodgson said that the works of art represent the continuing partnership between the Nuxalk Nation and BC Parks and bring Nuxalk perspective and culture into the Park, which encompasses Nuxalk traditional territory.
The ceremonies, led by culturalist Snxakila (Clyde Tallio) took place in the traditional territory of Stuwicmc Staltmc Lhkw’anaats (Conrad Clellamin). After a traditional blessing, the pole (carved by lead carver Lyle Mack with assistance from Kyle Mack, Chazz Mack and Reuben Mack) was raised by the community at the Belarko Bear Viewing station.
The pole features a mountain goat (Yaki) at the top and a grizzly bear at the bottom: both are prominent creatures in the park and an important part of Nuxalk smayustas (creation stories). Topped off by a pair of horns, the pole is a breathtaking sight to witness upon entering the area.
“It’s a historic day and it’s awesome to see everything coming together with BC Parks and the Nuxalk Nation. We are standing together, and our spirits are unifying here in the Valley,” said Head Chief Nuximlayc (Noel Pootlass). “My family is very close with the Clellamin family, and I’m very honoured to be standing here with them today.”
Following the pole raising the ceremony moved onto the Fisheries Pool campground, where a set of doors carved by master carver Alvin Mack were unveiled to the waiting crowd.
The doors are the final touches on a brand-new day use building constructed by local timber framers Rod Krimmer and Kevin Matuga. Commissioned by BC Parks, they are a spectacular work of art intended to represent the story of the Park. Mack, a celebrated and accomplished artist in the community, said that the piece is a way of communicating our mutual responsibilities of taking care of the Park.
“On the right side there is an eagle and a bear,” Mack explained. “There is a tree in the middle, with Alhkw’ntam on the top, and on the left side there is a goat and a salmon. These figures represent the life in the Park, and also our responsibility to care for them.”
Mack said his inspiration for the doors came from a story originating with Alexander MacKenzie and his historic first encounter with Nuxalk people in 1793.
“When MacKenzie first visited he and his party were accompanied downriver by Nuxalk guides,” Mack recalled. “At one point one of MacKenzie’s party threw some garbage in the river, a bone from a deer they had eaten. At this time any refuse in the river was strictly forbidden, and the Nuxalkmc accompanying him dove and dove until they retrieved this bone. If that had been a Nuxalkmc at that time, he would have been killed. That is how serious the offense of littering in the river was.
“The only reason this door was carved was not for me, it’s not for you. It’s for those who are not yet born that need to see the beauty of this land. We’re here, all of us, as people, to look after this Valley, this earth.”
Clyde Tallio echoed this sentiment, speaking to the historical practice of Nations helping one another.
“It’s really important that we show that example of working together, that we uplift one another,” he said. “Up and down this coast and through the interior for thousands of years, all of the people of different Nations and languages, have worked together to look after the land.”
“I’d like to hold my hands up to the Clellamin family, the carvers, and the Nation and thank them for working together with us,” said Hodgson in his closing remarks. “I feel from the heart that it’s the right thing and we’re going in the right direction.”