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Government House totem pole raises awareness of history and culture

Sep 09 2012
Totem pole carved by Tony Hunt is a replica of one by his grandfather, Chief Mungo Martin. 

Totem pole carved by Tony Hunt is a replica of one by his grandfather, Chief Mungo Martin.

Photograph by: Darren Stone , Times Colonist

The legacy of Mungo Martin rose again Saturday on the grounds of Government House.

A replica of a totem pole Martin created in 1959 for the Royal Canadian Navy, called Hosaqami, was hoisted into place under the watchful eye of his adoptive grandson, Tony Hunt. Hunt, who helped with the original pole as a boy, was commissioned to carve the new Hosaqami in honour of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.

The original pole was presented to the Royal Navy and installed near Portsmouth, England, where it stood for three decades.

Restoration was considered for the pole, but it was too damaged. Fittingly, it has also been placed on the grounds of Government House, where it can decompose and "disappear back to Mother Earth," Hunt said.

The raising of the 7.3-metre replacement pole was part of a ceremony that attracted hundreds of spectators on Saturday.

Lt.-Gov. Steven Point said the pole should serve as a reminder that different cultures need to live in harmony.

"This pole, what it represents to me, is in fact a new time for us all to stand in the same circle," said Point, who has a First Nations background.

There is no room for conflict among people, he said. "We have to, in this time and age, find a way to paddle together in one canoe."

Hunt told the crowd that creating the pole was made possible by the support of many people. He explained how much it meant to learn to carve from his grandfather, and how the family's traditions would live on.

Having his son and his grandson among the dancers at the ceremony was a sign of how tradition is continuing, Hunt said.

"That's the whole history of what Mungo left."

Among those helping to raise the pole was Bill Schead, one of three men in attendance who were part of the naval escort crew for the first pole. Schead travelled from Manitoba just to be part of the occasion.

"It's rather incredible to be here," he said. "It's a very, very important event."

Music and entertainment followed the ceremony. The day also featured the unveiling of a plaque by First Nations veterans and a carving called The Salmon People.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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