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Victoria International Marina raises new welcome pole

Welcome poles are often referred to as totem poles, but they are not the same

Robyn Bell
October 5, 2023
Community
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria International Marina raises new welcome pole

Welcome poles are often referred to as totem poles, but they are not the same

Robyn Bell
Oct 5, 2023
Photo: Ken Barnes / Salish Eye Productions
Photo: Ken Barnes / Salish Eye Productions
Community
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria International Marina raises new welcome pole

Welcome poles are often referred to as totem poles, but they are not the same

Robyn Bell
October 5, 2023
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Victoria International Marina raises new welcome pole
Photo: Ken Barnes / Salish Eye Productions

The pole was secured into place Wednesday, ready now to offer a welcoming greeting to all who visit the marina.

The pole, which stands nine metres, was created by master carver Tom LaFortune in collaboration with the Songhees Nation.

LaFortune is a member of the Tseycum Nation and is known for his work on projects throughout the Island, including he Salish arch at Fort Rodd Hill and two totems for Duncan’s City of Totems project.

The Victoria International Marina commissioned the pole in 2017,  after consulting with the Songhees and Esquimalt nations about an art installation.

The marina is located in a bay where Lekwungen speaking nations traditionally welcomed guests as they arrived on canoe, making the welcome pole a fitting nod to its original purpose. Songhees Chief Ron Sam said visitors will be welcomed in a “traditional Salish way.”

“Welcome poles are often referred to as totem poles, but they are distinct in form and function from the freestanding multiple-figure totem poles commonly associated with northern Northwest Coast People,” LaFortune said in a statement.

“The Coast Salish have long raised welcome figures as markers to welcome people to their territories”

Welcome poles come across engaging, welcoming

Welcome poles often are carved in an engaging gesture, with “arms outstretched” and facing visitors as they arrive, LaFortune explained. He consulted with Songhees elders, the late John Rice Sr. and Skip Dick, to determine its design.

The core element features the Grandmother Killer Whale, followed by her grandson, the “welcome figure.”

“The grandmother killer whale came into the village to let her grandson know there are canoes floundering on outside waters,” LaFortune said, explaining the traditional story. “She took her grandson out to welcome them into safe harbour.”

Two otters represent playfulness, hard work and family strength while on top, an eagle sits with its wings at its sides to oversee the village’s activities.

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Robyn Bell
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