Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Monday, June 22, 2009

A totem is raised, a school will be closed and a new face takes to her beat, some of the stories of the Monday Daily News.

FIRST POLE RAISING IN 150 YEARS MAKES MARK IN METLAKATLA-- National Aboriginal Day had a special meaning at Metlakatla as residents and visitors celebrated the raising of the first totem pole in 150 years. Carved by master carver, Mike Epp the focal point of the community will provide a striking image both in the village and on approach by water. (see story below)

School District 52 won't be going with the middle school option in the near future, that potential vision for the community was voted down at Thursday night's School District meeting, but the city's two high school will eventually become one as the plan to amalgamate secondary schools in Prince Rupert was given the green light. The plan at the moment seems to be to see the closure of PRSS come into effect over the next few years, with all secondary students moving to the Charles Hays site. It's but one of a number of issues that will see further debate in September as the School District comes to terms with its aging infrastructure and declining enrollment. The Daily News provided some background on Thursday's meeting and the decisions made thus far, you can examine their report from this link.

The machinery gremlins apparently gobbled up a story from Friday's paper and to that end the editorial staff offered up their apologies and explanations as they delivered their story on the arrival of a member of the RCMP's Pre-Cadet Training program. A few days later than promised in last Friday's paper it outlines the road ahead for pre-cadet Billi Humchitt, who receives her first examination of life as a police officer.

The Sports pages featured details of the Mens Jubille held over the weekend at the Prince Rupert Centennial Golf Course.

Total pages of Monday's paper (12)

Front page, headline story:

By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Monday, June 22, 2009
Pages one and two

National Aboriginal Day was marked in Metlakatla, B.C. by raising the first totem pole in 150 years.

The 21-foot pole was carved in the village by master carver, 46-year-old Mike Epp, a member of the Gitlaan tribe and Raven Clan.

"This is a community pole that brings us all together and from here on in we will move forward," said Chief Harold Leighton of the Metlakatla Governing Council. .

Arriving by two Metlakatla ferries and some by personal boats and kayaks, hundreds of people came from the region for the community celebration.

"It's always exciting," said Nisga'a Chief Herbert Haldane (Laay) of the Eagle Clan before the proceedings began.

"This is my second pole raising. The first was in New Aiyansh."

Chief Willard Martin (Niisyuus) of the Grizzly Bear Clan, stood beside Haldane.

"I think it's an historical day for this community," Martin said. "In the wisdom of our elders they say receiving our culture is like bringing them back."

The proceeding began with a procession to the home of master carver Michael Epp.

Chiefs, elders, matriarchs, drummers and dignitaries walked down the paved road toward the house, where the pole waited in the carving shed next to the house.

Standing beneath the entrance of the shed, Hereditary Chief Clarence Nelson gave a formal welcome.

"This is part of a 20 year vision," he said. "In 1994 we developed a community plan with four goals.

"The first was economic development. The second was a talking stick and we completed that.

"We needed a totem pole in 15 years, we said, and it's the 14th year so we're right, on target. Our next goal is an Elder's Centre,” he said.

Epp and his assistants stood alongside the pole on either side, their foreheads smudged with a paste made from tree roots.

In his blessing Reverend Ben Hill said, "unlock the mysteries of love to inspire people to see the truth and value of this pole's light. Its beauty, delight, vision and challenge."

After reading from the bible, Hill's wife Thelma blessed the pole, sprinkling water over it with cedar bows.

When the pole was ready to be transported, several men lined themselves along the pole, making six rows.

The descent from the carving shed was the trickiest part, because there was an incline, but once the group was safely on the road, the carrying of it proceeded without incident.

When the pole arrived at the installment spot, it was placed on two sawhorses and cushioned by blankets.

Epp and five helpers then performed a ritual to breathe life into the pole.

Walking around it, they leaned in close making quiet "wooh" sounds as they breathed into all areas of the pole's intricate design., '

Behind them a chief in regalia rattled deer hooves.

"That was the first time I had done it like that," said Epp of the breathing ritual:

"It felt really powerful to be bringing' those future spirits alive.”

With ropes tied around the pole and levered from several directions, the pole was raised carefully and quickly. As it reached its final destination, cheers and clapping erupted from the crowd.

"It's our pole, meaning it's our pole," said elder Fanny Nelson triumphantly.

The pole has been treated with Thompson's water seal.

From the top to the bottom there are an eagle, raven, wolf and killer whale.

Explaining the pole's meaning to the crowd, Epp said. "It starts at the top. The eagle flies, soaring over our land to see what's going on. He tells the. raven to fly around too. .

"The raven flies and tells the wolf who runs through all the villages. The wolf runs to the beach to tell the whale -the blackfish-and the whale turns into a grizzly bear.

"The grizzly bear runs around to enforce what has been told to him."

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