The Story Pole

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All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here.”

Richard Wagamese

June 21, 2019, Canada is celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day (French: Journée nationale des peuples autochtones) to recognize the vibrant cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Indigenous peoples of Canada. Festivities are happening all across our nation.

Join me as I commemorate this day with the Story Pole which was placed in Beacon Hill Park and dedicated to the City of Victoria on July 2, 1956

Majestic, resilient, a silent storyteller that overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Story Pole was carved by a team led by Mungo Martin, Kwakiutl tribal chief and renowned carver.  At the time of its creation, it was the world’s tallest free-standing Story Pole or Totem Pole, rising into the sky nearly 128 feet or close to 39 meters.

Totem poles are monumental carvings that hold stories that remember ancestors, symbolize legends, preserve cultural beliefs and speak of historical events. They welcome visitors, even as they care for the well-being of the community. Carved from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by First Nations and indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast, tradition calls for totem poles to return to the earth from where they first came. So it will be with this Story Pole.

There is an end to their natural lives, but their stories live on.

“It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time…”

Richard Wagamese

 

Story Pole from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

33 thoughts on “The Story Pole

  1. Ah, yes Rebecca, all that we are is story… some magical, and beautiful, like the one you tell about these wonderful people and their magnificent sculpted art, and culture. We too, the derogatory so-called white-man have things to be proud of, save of course our treatment of our indigenous brothers, for which I apologize for being the bearer of the other side of the coin, which sadly must be repeated, until we have finally leveled the playing field, as in acknowledging the inequalities for all times.
    How wonderful that we the interlopers of primarily European decent, A.K.A the white-man, after a few centuries finally realized that First Nations People were here before us, and that we waltzed in and took the land of these Indigenous Peoples, by hook or by crook, by killing and steeling, what they had been willing to share in the first place. Well finally, the younger generations, are now starting to correct the ugly malaise that our ancestors foisted on our brothers, the Indigenous Peoples.
    Even the city of Montreal has seen fit, for the very first time, to rename, Amherst Street, which was unveiled on Friday morning, now to be called by its new indigenous name of Atateken. As you might know, of said English General Jeffery Amherst, out of the goodness of his heart sent loads of blankets to help keep the indigenous souls warm, save he ne’er saw fit to mention that he’d had said blankets purposely infected, which would in short order kill off these poor trusting people. A small token of retribution.

    As it appeared in this morning’s CBC News…

    Montreal’s Amherst Street has been renamed Atateken Street, which denotes the idea of equality among people in Kanien’kéha, the Mohawk language.
    The announcement, made this morning by Mayor Valérie Plante, comes two years after her predecessor Denis Coderre promised to rename the street.
    “Now that Amherst Street has a new name, the spirit of our peoples, the spirit of our ancestors can now rest in peace,” said Ghislain Picard, head of Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Cindy! I loved walking the trail to the hill. I could see the top of the Story Pole through the trees. Blogging is a way to tell and share our stories – together we create compassionate communities. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree wholeheartedly, Liz. I find that when I read, I am able to see life through the lens of another life, another life, another dimension. Lately, I have been considering how to add personal stories to the timeline. I believe that when we blog, we are sending our stories out into the wild, without any thought of quid pro quo. We are defining our generation, our moment in history. As Richard Wagemese said, “We are story….”

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s been so interesting to think about your celebration of Story. I have not been blogging much recently because I felt as if I have nothing much to say. But I think I had forgotten that we don’t have to have momentous things to write about, and anyway perhaps the most interesting stories are those which capture our everyday lives. Thank you for helping me to re-see the value of story-sharing. Hugs! xxx

        Liked by 2 people

      • I agree – our lives our made up of mostly little things, seemingly trivial moments, when combined have extraordinary power. I loved your posts on creating a space for your creative endeavours. In fact, you inspired me to transform the appearance of my computer “room.” I understand that depending on the size of the totem and the expertise of the carver that it takes between 3 to 9 months to create. I have seen a “totem in progress” – there is a reverence in the deliberate, steady, pace. Little steps that add to the full story. I am uncertain whether you will be able to access this short video about the raising of the Reconciliation totem at the University of British Columbia, but I thought that I would add it just in case you can…

        Liked by 3 people

      • Isn’t that a wonderful clip, and so interesting to read more about the Reconciliaton Totem. As you would say, the journey continues! X

        Like

  2. Just magical. We are the authors of our own stories. The heroes/heroines. What a beautiful holiday, and a magnificent totem pole. I feel a strong affinity with Native Americans and their culture, and I now live in an area with a sizeable population of Odawa (Ottawa).

    Liked by 2 people

    • You live in a beautiful place! I love your thought that we are the heroes/heroines of our story because you introduce the idea of purpose, choice, community and celebration. A profound call to action to see ourselves as an ardent participant in the greater narrative of humanity – not just a bystander. We must see our lives – the ups and downs, the challenges, dreams and griefs – a marvelous kaleidoscope of intricate patterns. Sometimes the loudest voices get the attention, but I have found that the power comes from the stillness, the voice of joy and compassion. I always enjoy our conversations. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this important and beautiful art and knowledge! This is a wonderful article. Rebecca, you really do share some wonderful things here on Lady Budd!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your wonderful support and encouragement. We live in a beautiful world where amazing people work together to create compassionate and inclusive communities. Hugs coming your way…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for remembering and acknowledging such a vital part of Canadian history–a fantastic past of the important place that the first “story tellers” of Canada had in making Canadian history. It is so interesting that our family has the “blood” of First Nations in their veins!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am delighted that you enjoyed this post. The quote by Richard Wagemese is one of my favourites. It comes from his book, Medicine Walk, which is a journey of father and son through the rugged backcountry of Canada. Love, friendship and courage come together to bring healing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I tried to find the article by the librarian, but alas I have lost it. We forget that seemingly unimportant random acts of kindness have powerful outcomes. Do you remember that quote from the movie, Gladiator? “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” One librarian’s kindness created a story that continues to inspire.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think a lot about this in the context of teaching. Teachers have the power to change lives for good or for ill with the smallest gesture or comment. It’s a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly.

        Like

      • I am so sorry that I haven’t responded sooner. The comment somehow ended up in the span folder. Yes, teachers have an enormous power to influence children. I remember my teachers’ names and faces, their thoughtfulness and compassion. I also remember those teachers who should have chosen a different career path. As I look back, I wish I had understand these teachers – they were dreadfully unhappy and created enormous angst in their students. In the end, both types challenged me to see life in different ways, and embrace a greater journey.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The problem with teachers whose own unhappiness in the profession causes angst in their students is that the angst can have lasting consequences for a child. To end on a positive note, some schools are trying to prevent burnout, particularly of beginning teachers, with mentorship programs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Before I ran out of money, I was at the University of Alberta working towards an degree in education. Teaching is an awesome responsibility. There are many stakeholders, which adds to the complexity and ambiguity. The teaching profession is an evolving process, which is reflecting in the rise of on-line courses and the increase in homeschooling. We are making excellent progress in many areas including the way in which universities are equipping a new generation of teachers. By the way, I ended up in the financial services profession and found that teaching and life-long learning is a necessity no matter where you find you life’s calling. Always enjoy our conversations.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Elizabeth – your would love Beacon Hill Park. There are so many, many marvelous stories to discover in the folds of history. You have inspired me to look into Russian History. I am currently reading The Romanov Sisters” by Helen Rappaport.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is not an easy read, because I already know the end of the story. But I am very interested in knowing the history, the culture, the values. It will give me a deeper insight into Russian literature and folklore. The best part of life is our ability to learn…

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry that I haven’t responded sooner. The comment somehow ended up in the span folder. You live in a beautiful city. We are planning to return so will keep in touch. Let’s meet up for coffee, lunch tea!! Hugs coming your way.

      Like

  5. I know I already commented from my GLAM blog, but I didn’t see the “like”. Thought I’d double upon my appreciation!

    Liked by 1 person

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