City's centennial totem pole now towers over Charles Hoey Park

Kwagulth carver and Chief Calvin Hunt after a blessing ceremony of Duncan’s centennial totem pole carved unveiled Saturday in Charles Hoey Park. - Peter W. Rusland
Kwagulth carver and Chief Calvin Hunt after a blessing ceremony of Duncan’s centennial totem pole carved unveiled Saturday in Charles Hoey Park.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Duncan’s newest, and tallest, totem pole got royal Aboriginal treatment during Saturday’s soggy unveiling in Charles Hoey Park.

That’s where carver and Kwagulth Chief Calvin Hunt proudly hosted proceedings for the centennial art piece, flanked by speaker Chief Frank Nelson, plus Cowichan elders Ray Peter and Gus Joe, and others who represented Cowichan territory’s five villages.

At 34-feet, Hunt’s red-cedar masterpiece — anchored with tons of cement and a nine-inch centre rod — uses mythical characters to tell the story of the relationship between the City of Duncan and its neighbours, the Cowichan Tribes.

Hunt’s totem figures include The Eagle, The Guardian Spirit, city namesake William Chalmers Duncan, the Thunderbird, the Orca, and the Chief Maker, who is a woman.

“The five salmon on the back of the pole symbolize the five original tribes and their relationship with the early settlers, represented by the image of pioneer William Chalmers Duncan,” Duncan councillor Sharon Jackson said. “The figure of the Chiefmaker on the bottom honours women by recognizing their strength in building our community.”

Those legends saw Kwagulth singing and dancing that included ground-blessing with feathers, plus the salmon and women’s dances, done in and around a huge white tent covering about 100 folks.

Carver Rande Cook was stoked Hunt helped him with a 27-foot pole for Holland, while beavering on the city’s $60,000 centennial pole.

Paul Douville, Duncan’s former administrator and pole promoter, beamed about the new artwork toasting Totem Town’s shared heritage.

“This is spectacular, and a really beautiful work of art — this’ll make us even more proud of our totem collection.”

Town crier Ben Buss was also amped about Aboriginal and western heritage gracing Hunt’s pole.

“It’s in an appropriate place, and it’s a magnificent edifice,” he said of the towering totem he can cry about in future.

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