Last November, a small group of elders and youth were invited to the Men’s Shed at Loggers Lane where an intimate ceremony of blessing for a red cedar log was held. That log would become an eight-foot totem pole standing at the entrance to the new Foundry Sea to Sky centre in Squamish, BC.
Squamish Nation carver and elder See Appl-tun (Art Harry) designed the totem pole to be a beacon of welcome to youth from all cultures, for generations to come. The totem pole features a wolf supporting an eagle, spread-winged. “I chose the wolf because in the wolf pack, when one is hurt, the rest gather around that one, and slow their pace to let the injured one lead” See Appl-tun says of his design. “The eagle is there because it stays for a long time with its young to care for them. Its wings are spread wide as a welcome.”
After the log blessing, Sea to Sky Community Services invited youth from Squamish and the surrounding area, to participate in a totem pole carving program, learning how to carve from See Appl-tun and Justin McCutcheon and co-creating the totem pole as they progressed.
Each week, a committed group of youth met in the wooden shed off Loggers Lane as See App-tun shared his carving knowledge. Over the course of several weeks, the cedar log slowly transformed and the totem pole emerged as the group worked together, building community, taking on challenges, and expressing themselves creatively.
“The program taught us new woodworking and carving skills and that’s awesome, but it did something else too. It taught us to come together as one. We created this by working together, all of us, young and old, all genders, all backgrounds had a hand in this creation and in the end that is what the totem will be a symbol of – Our Togetherness.” Tallulah, Youth Advisory Committee member and Carving Program participant shares. See Appl-tun elaborates on the thought: “each participant helps the totem pole gain its strength and spirit. When the carver blows the wood shavings away, they blow their spirit into the wood. The more people who work together in the totem’s creation, the stronger it will be. You here, will all always be part of this Totem, not just in its making physically, but in its spirit.”
The carving workshop was part of a collaborative community building program operated by Sea to Sky Community Services and funded in part by community grants such as the one provided by the Bosa Family Foundation.
“We believe that when people know their neighbours, everyone thrives” shares the Bosa Family Foundation on their website.
On June 14 the final totem pole workshop was hosted in the wooden shed at Loggers Lane. Youth who had participated in the carving program returned one last time to apply the first strokes of paint to the totem pole. The process was documented by photographer Anita Bonnarens who shares her observations:
I feel deeply grateful for my photo assignment…Documenting the creative process of an eight-foot welcome-totem pole … has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing Indigenous and Métis peoples from Squamish. Following the process from the log blessing, back in November, to its first strokes of paint last Tuesday, has given me some hopeful feelings and amazing insights; nothing separates us if we are willing to see our similarities and open our minds to new learnings and understandings.
Every time I have the honour to join them in the old, wooden shed I feel a beautiful, colourful energy growing strong. I witness teacher and students side by side carving the wood with patience, sharing skills and stories. Blowing away clouds of wood dust and joking and laughing over food. In these moments:
History is being passed on.
Bridges are being built.
Bonding is happening.
Synergy is flowing.
In the shed it’s not my way or your way, it’s our way.
Opening in fall 2022, the new Foundry Sea to Sky will provide access to mental health, primary care, substance use intervention, peer support, and social and recreational programing to young people aged 12-24 throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor. Find out more about Foundry Sea to Sky at FoundrySeatoSky.com or get involved with an upcoming youth workshop by visiting SSCS.ca/youth-services.