Sunday, October 26, 2008

First Nations and Orcadian Community Totem Pole Carving Project

The beginning of this project came in the way of a phone call from Lynn Foubister who now works as a community worker at Seaton in Aberdeen. Lynn had previously been involved in the carving of a pole with Seaton community and wondered if Holm would be interested in a similar project. Andrew Drever who was chairman of the Holm Community Association put this proposal to the committee and, after some head scratching, received approval.

Fife carver, Kenny Grieve was to be our main contact as he had already co-ordinated the carving and raising of 26 poles throughout Scotland and had worked with the First Nation’s carvers from the outset.

Kenny travelled to Orkney in June 2007 to give a public presentation and to visit some primary schools to gauge what interest there was. It was apparent from the outset that this would be an exciting project for the whole community to get involved in and would be a unique hands on experience.

A tree was kindly donated by Forestry Commision Scotland and transported to Orkney by Streamline Shipping Group Ltd. Four Squamish Nation carvers, XwaLack Tun, Drew Atkins, Ray Natrall and Jordon Seward travelled from Vancouver and spent a fortnight with host families where many cultural exchanges were made.

The opening event was in the Holm Hall and was attended by many locals who came to the see the ceremonial blessing of the log and the stripping of the bark. The following day the carvers, along with locals, set to drawing the designs that would be transferred onto the pole. Many people came to the hall with their ideas and all were incorporated into the design.

People of all ages and abilities took part in the carving under the supervision and guidance of the carvers, with some working for a few minutes right through to others working full days.

Towards the end, a ceilidh was held with a sumptuous buffet and presentations were made before the dance that lasted into the small hours.

The final day was a day of brilliant sunshine and was attended by around 500 locals who turned up to see the raising of the pole. Following a blessing of the earth and the calling of witnesses, the ropes were attached and with gentle pull and great ease the pole raised into the air and stood proud in its final resting place at the end of Number 1 Churchill Barrier.

This was a unique experience that caught the imagination of our community and produced a lasting piece of artwork that will be a focus and reminder of friendships forged.
Our whole community was involved with the project from the very beginning. The women were called to assist with the blessing of the log.

People of all ages were keen to contribute their ideas to reflect our local community (including farming, the sea, music and nature), and to carve the symbols into the pole.

The finished pole was carried in procession behind the Stromness Royal British Legion Pipe Band on a perfect September day.

Xwa Lack Tun guided the groups bearing the ropes to lift the pole into postion.

The First Nation Carvers from Vancouver, Ray Natrall, Xwa Lack Tun and Drew Atkins with Andrew Drever, Co-ordinator of the project. Jordon Seward had returned home earlier. Andrew was made an Honorary Chief for the day.