New Totem Pole Completes a Circle

Bill and Junior Henderson

(Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Doll and the Campbell River Mirror)

A new totem pole that was raised and blessed on the grounds of the Museum at Campbell River in May marks the completion of a circle for a family of Laichwiltach carvers from the Wei Wai Kum Nation.

The pole was carved by Bill Henderson and his nephew Junior Henderson. It was commissioned to replace the original pole carved by Bill’s father and Junior’s grandfather: master carver Sam Henderson. That pole was erected in 1967 as part of B.C.’s celebrations for Canada’s centenary.

The raising of the new pole marks the completion of a circle for Bill. About a year-and-a-half ago he held a ceremony to burn the old pole, which had rotted beyond repair.

“I laid out my father’s favourite foods on top of the pole before it was burned: tea and crackers and smoked fish and herring roe,” says Bill. “Then we blessed the new log at the same time. To me in my heart, that was the best thing to do.”

Bill had helped paint the original pole when he was 15 years old. His son, William Jr., helped paint this one. Bill and Junior’s carving replicated the original pole. It features Thunderbird and Bear designs from the family of Bill’s mother, May Henderson, nee Quocksister.

“My father taught me to carve so I felt a real connection to him as I worked on this piece,” says Bill.

At the ceremony to bless and dedicate the pole, Junior told onlookers: “You are standing here not because of me, not because of Billy, not because of anybody else here, we’re standing here because of Sam Henderson and the legacy he left us.”

Funding for the commission of this pole was provided by a B.C. Arts Council Innovations Grant and Campbell River Rotary.  A documentary film is being produced that will document the entire process of how a totem pole comes to be.