Every-time I walk into the doors my eyes are drawn to it. I don’t know what I love so much about this pole. Perhaps it’s the width of it, or the depth of the carving. The pole has so much presence and life to it and when I look at it I feel so small in comparison. When I imagine beaches lined with hundreds of poles this impressive I get chills.
Learning the stories of what happened to some of the old poles is heart-breaking.
K’uuna Llnagaay- Skedans
Grizzly Bear House Pole
This pole was originally a GyaaGang. ngaay (house frontal pole) and stood in front of Xuuajii Naay (Grizzly Bear House).
Here is how it looked standing.
Photo taken in 1878.
Unfortunately what stands in the Slaaw Daaw Naay or Welcome House of the Heritage Centre is only a small portion of an once enormous Monumental pole.
GyaaGang.ngaay (house frontal poles) show the crests and status of the families or clans that live in the house.
When poles were removed from old villages they were taken without permission.
Pieces of our history, our culture, our home were taken.
This pole was removed in 1935 by BC Packers. It was raised again in Prince Rupert and re-painted in revolting colours. The pole was then cut into three pieces and transferred to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.
The bottom central section was finally returned to its home of Haida Gwaii in 1976 and it now stands in the Welcoming House.
The face of the human figure is probably my favourite part of the pole. I primarily photograph people. I constantly find myself looking at peoples facial features and trying not to get caught staring. When I look at a pole my eyes are drawn to the human figures. I like to study their features in the same way I would a face I was photographing.
I am not an expert in Haida Art and I am not sure if this totem pole is or would have been considered note-worthy.
I just know that I love it and I will never grow tired of seeing it every morning I walk into the Heritage Centre.
I am happy that it will be there to greet me, for years to come.
Written by: Michaela McGuire, Project Officer at GNC & HHC, Photographer, and new-ish Skidegate Resident.