Kwakiutl chief Calvin Hunt’s latest totem pole is taking shape.
The pole is a big one, 30-feet long and three-feet wide, and once finished it will be erected outside of the coast guard’s new logistics depot building across the bay in Port Hardy.
Hunt has been an artist for over four decades now and owns the Copper Maker Gallery, situated in the Tsakis Village (Fort Rupert), and continues to create works of art like masks, drums, carvings, and totem poles. He comes from an unbroken line of totem pole carvers; Charlie James, Mungo Martin, Doug Cranmer, Henry Hunt Sr. and Tony Hunt Sr.
The totem pole project is being sponsored by his family and the coast guard. He said normally he would have used a log like this one for a family project, but he felt it was important to use it to make a statement about the land.
“This pole is going to stand facing the water, you’re going to be able to see it across the bay in Carrot Park,” he confirmed. “We’re trying to make a statement here that … this is Kwakiutl territory.”
Hunt said there actually used to be big houses and villages situated all across the bay.
As for what he’s carving into the log to create the story behind the totem pole, Hunt said the base of it features a bear holding on to a salmon.
“At one time there was so much salmon around here it was just incredible, our resources were managed so well, but now they’re almost all gone,” he said. “Salmon are so important to our culture for our potlatches and our feasting.”
The middle part of the pole shows a killer whale with a mink coming out of the blowhole and a raven on top that tells the tale of a famous legend passed down through generations from the Tlingit side of his family.
The massive eagle resting on top represents the Kwakiutl nation.
“We’re the head tribe of all the Kwakwaka’wakw people, so when there’s a potlatch or a feast the Kwakiutl are always first to speak.”
Finally, there’s a sun that represents the First Nation’s creation story.
“These figures are all important to the Kwakiutl,” he said, pointing out that all the artwork combined together represents the First Nation’s connection to the land, the sea and the sky.
Hunt estimated he’s been working on the pole for over two months now, and has been carving it entirely by himself. He’s aiming to finish carving it and have it painted by November.