After years in the making, a powerful peice of public art has been unveiled outside the View Royal Fire Department headquarters.
Standing nearly as tall as the building itself, a totem pole featuring a bear and salmon – topped by an eagle with its wings spread wide – was officially unveiled Saturday (May 28) by a delegation of officials and master carver Tom LaFortune of Tsawout First Nation.
“The bottom figure is the bear and the salmon, representing the Elder’s stories of four salmon bearing creeks in Esquimalt harbour and the people who had to fight off the bears going after the salmon,” said LaFortune. “The top of the totem is the spread wing eagle, and it represents the View Royal firefighters and demonstrates protection. They are always watching and protecting us.”
Efforts to have a totem pole put on display in front of the fire hall have been on going for around a decade, and the pole made by LaFortune has been ready since the fall, but due to public health restrictions the town waited until now to officially unveil it to a large gathering of community members.
The pole is intended to serve both as a symbol of the friendship between the Town of View Royal and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations it borders and shares a fire department with, and as an opportunity to bring together the histories of each community.
“In our culture we say ‘netsamaat,’ and it means ‘we are all one,’” said Songhees Chief Ron Sam. “We have strong ties to View Royal and we work in partnership in many ways. We are more than neighbours, and this totem pole tells that story.”
Saturday’s ceremony saw a crowd of around 100 people from across the West Shore and featured traditional Indigenous prayers and ceremonies throughout, further tying the cultures and histories of the communities together. As the large grey tarp was peeled away, reveling the totem pole itself, the crowd let out a collective gasp before breaking out into applause.
“We are so excited to share this totem pole with the community,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech. “This totem pole is not a first step, it’s a symbol of the work, respect, and trust we have cultivated by following the guidance of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.”