The weathered totem that once stood outside in the courtyard at the old Alberni District Secondary School on Burde Street got a touch-up by its original carver just in time for the opening of the new high school on Roger Street.
The five-metre tall western red cedar totem was weathered from the elements and was taken down from the old school’s inner courtyard more than a year ago, Nuu-chah-nulth carver Pat Amos said.
“There was a lot of wear and tear, especially on the southwest side from the wind and rain,” Amos said. “Taking it down and bringing it inside gave it a chance to dry so I could work on it properly.”
Amos carved the pole 17 years ago, taking over from his father Tim Paul, who was originally commissioned to do the work but became bogged down in other projects.
“Hughie Sam, Edgar Lawson and the late Wilfred Robinson helped me carve the first one,” Amos said.
ADSS graduate Natasha Cook helped Amos do some of the painting, he said.
The pole depicts a Tsix-watin, or eagle on the top which represents strength and power. And a Kakawin, or killer whale rests below it, representing ruling over the sea.
“It also represents that our ancestors hunted whales,” Amos said.
A new dorsal fin had to be carved to replace the old one, which loosened from kids hanging off it. The pole also had to be lightly sanded down to provide a smooth base for a new coat of paint, Amos said.
In addition to a new fin and paint, ovoids have been placed in the teeth and copper pieces throughout the pole, Amos said.
Amos did most of the work on the pole at the new high school and finished just as the building was closed.
The pole will stand in the atrium at the Roger Street facility and a proper unveiling will be done at a grand opening later, Amos said. The school district has talked about adding other poles in the future, he added.