Third times a charm. Right? Peggy and I are out kayaking among the Orca whales up off the northern tip of Vancouver Island as this blog is posted. Or I should say reposted for the second time. It’s appropriate given our trip, however. We are in First Nation country and we once again drove through Duncan. And, as many of you know, I am a big fan of First Nation and Native American art. –Curt
Dzonoqua comes sneaking through the woods, hands outstretched, red lips pursed and whistling, “ooh, ooh” to attract small children who have wandered into the forests. Some stories say she eats the whiny ones. She is also known as the Wild Woman of the Woods or Mrs. Bigfoot. Her large, dangling breasts capture the spirit of Salmon. Thunderbird perches on her shoulders. His wings crash together and make thunder; his eyes shoot out lightning.
Peggy and I, along with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake, visited Duncan BC on Vancouver Island to check out the numerous totem poles carved by First Nation artists and placed throughout the town.
The close relation of First Nation people to Bear, Eagle, Raven, Whale, Owl, Wolf, Beaver, Salmon, Otter and other animals stretches back to ancient times. Families would adopt particular animals as their totems and then carve these animals into totem poles. The poles would serve to both protect and instruct the families. Some families were even known to shape shift into their totem animal. (Jacob, morphing into a wolf in the Twilight series, is a modern example.)
The arrival of whites in the Northwest had a devastating impact on the people and culture of the First Nation tribes. Disease wiped out whole populations. The practice of native religion and the carving of totem poles were prohibited. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the art of totem pole carving was revived.
It thrives today. Native artists continue to carve traditional themes but they have also extended their interpretations and honed their skills. While the totem poles and masks still serve as important mythic symbols to First Nation people, they have also become a source of pride to all who live in BC and the Northwest. I might add they have also become an important attraction for tourist dollars.
Duncan BC and native artists have done an excellent job of displaying totem poles representative of the north coast. Visiting the town, located on the Trans-Canada highway halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, is well worth the stop.
To enhance your visit, I highly recommend stopping by the Visitor’s Center and picking up the book, “The Totem Walk of Duncan” written by Joan Chisholm and illustrated by Crysta Bouchard and R. Howe. For more information go to: http://www.downtownduncan.ca/duncan_totem_tourNEW.html
NEXT BLOG: We cross the border into Canada and are reintroduced to the delicate art of carving with a chainsaw.