Tsartlip carver unveils restored totems

Reveal of newly restored House Posts at Thrifty Foods in Central Saanich last week

Master Carver Charles Elliott of the Tsartlip First Nation speaks during the unveiling of four recently restored House Posts at the Thrifty Foods store in Central Saanich last Friday.

Local Master Carver Charles Elliott of the Tsartlip First Nation, artists, elders, community members and dignitaries were on hand at Thrifty Foods in Central Saanich recently for a special unveiling.

Elliott, along with Tsartlip elder Fred Charlie, Thrifty Foods General Manager Jim Dores, store manager Stan Waterman and community members gathered at the Central Saanich Thrifty Foods store on Friday, July 19 to unveil four restored House Posts.

The posts flank the entrance the Thrifty Foods’ Central Saanich store and were originally designed in 1998 by Elliott.

“Charles Elliott’s work symbolizes the sense of community that underpins everything we do, and that was particularly appropriate to the Central Saanich store when it opened in 1998,” said Dores.

“We are fortunate to be able to work with him again, as this is truly a collaborative effort between his carving team, our store team and the local community who are welcomed by the totems each day.”

The four totems symbolize welcome (eagle), new beginnings (raven and frog), sustenance (bear and salmon) and community building (beaver).

“These carvings are our silent ambassadors,” said Elliott. “They tell the story of our culture and they show that First Nations are a part of this community. I remember selecting each of these old-growth red cedars back in 1998, and it’s still some of the finest wood I have ever worked with.”

Thrifty Foods Central Saanich was fully renovated in 2012 and after years of exposure to natural weather conditions, it was decided the posts should be refurbished to bring back the beauty of their original state.

“We learned a lot together through this restoration project and I’ll miss seeing Charles and his team of artists outside the store every day,” said Waterman.

Elliott’s work is well represented on the Saanich Peninsula, with totems carved by him standing at the Victoria Airport and welcome poles at the entrance of the Tsartlip Health Centre which opened in October 2012.

Elliott also created several international ambassadorial works, including the Queen’s Baton for the 15th Commonwealth Games in 1994 and a talking stick for Nelson Mandela.

“As a community we really appreciate Thrifty’s as a member of the business community and value them as an employer,” said Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson at the unveiling.

“We also really appreciate the inclusion of local First Nations art in their restoration activities.”