Saturday, December 12, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Friday, December 11, 2009

The final steps towards a pole raising at NWCC, Reconciliation on the Haida Gwaii sends the Queen Charlottes to the history books and the latest on the language debate at School District 52, some of the items of the Friday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
A LEGACY IN THE MAKING FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE -- Northwest Community College's totem pole is nearing its completion, with a pole raising planned for February, but before the pole is raised on the campus, the carvers Gerald Stewart and Henry Green hope to provide some education of their own, outlining the significance of the pole and provide a look at the history behind it.

A federal-provincial Reconciliation project is bringing some much desired and delayed improvements to the transportation network in Klemtu, as Premier Gordon Campbell signed a protocol with Klemtu leaders, providing 25 million dollars for a new ferry terminal at the coastal community.

An unauthorized letter seems to have been the kindling to the blazing debate over the introduction of other First Nation languages into the School District 52 curriculum. The issue of introducing the Haida language into the school system caused a fair amount of controversy between Nisga'a and Haida residents of the city over the last few months, it's that fall out that the School District is now trying to navigate through as it decides what the next step will be in the language debate.

The Sports section featured details of much of the last week's high school basketball season, with the Grade 8 and Junior squads receiving the full court press of press.

(Daily News Archive Articles links for December 10th )

The Northern View
Haida Nation signs historic reconciliation agreement that includes shared decision making-- The Provincial Government continues on its path of reconciliation with First Nations with a historic agreement with the Haida. Among some of the key items of the agreement, shared decisions on land use on the Islands and the removal of all references to the Queen Charlotte Islands from official maps and documents. The Islands now to be officially known as Haida Gwaii (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Haida Reconciliation -- CFTK provides some background on Friday's announcement of reconciliation between the Provincial Government and the Haida Nation. (see article here)

Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
Historic agreement signed between Province, Haida -- Details from Haida Gwaii on the signing of the reconciliation protocol known as known as Kunst'aa guu - Kunst'aayah (see article here)

Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
It's official. It's Haida Gwaii! -- Some background on the history of the soon to be archived name of the Queen Charlotte Islands as the name Haida Gwaii gains official claim to the Islands for the future (see article here)

Queen Charlotte Islands Observer
Significant loss for GMDC -- A Funding crunch washes ashore on Haida Gwaii as the Masset Development Corporation records a loss on investment income of $486,000 (see article here)

CBC British Columbia, Daybreak North
No items for Wednesday were updated on the CBC Daybreak website

Daily News, Front page, headline story
A legacy in the making for community college
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, December 11, 2009

The results of their work will soon be a totem displayed on the front lawn of Northwest Community College’s Prince Rupert campus.

In a non-descript building within the Kaien Rd industrial park, Tsimshian carvers Henry Green and Gerald Stewart are hammering and sawing away on a western red cedar.

The totem pole was commissioned by the school and is fashioned in the NiesDoix (Killer Whale) tradition. It will pay respect to the Gitwailgyoats tribe, whose territory much of Prince Rupert is built on.

The pole is to be raised in February with a ceremony and celebration, but Stewart would like to get the school involved sooner because of the meaning the pole holds.

“We would like to bring people from the school, tribe and locals to a lecture about the pole and the history behind it,” explained Stewart.

Stewart has been carving for the past twenty years, but only recently took the artist’s trade on full time. It’s a significant departure from the trade that has employed him for the past couple of decades, but perhaps not complete departure in skill sets.

Stewart’s career as an electrician was put on hold by the global economic recession. He was one of twenty people laid off in June by his employer in Vancouver as many trade outfits adjusted to weather the poor economics of 2009.

But the job loss inspired a life change. Stewart decided that moving back to Prince Rupert and focusing on his art was worth a try.

Stewart joined Green at the former wood carving shed, owned by the Museum of Northern B.C. Soon after, carvers were given their eviction notice and they were out of luck for workshop space. Or so they thought.

As Stewart recalls, Ed Pilfold had heard that they were in bind and saw the opportunity. He had a space in the industrial park that required a tenant. The work area was long enough, “and it included a working toilet,” joked Stewart, and so the carvers moved in.

The tree itself came from Lax Kw’alaams and was secured by Pilfold, Green and Pat Helin.
Stewart and Green have been working on the project for three weeks and the pole looks to be rounding into fine form, with the Grizzly Bear crest of the Chief and the Killer Whale already identifiable.

As Stewart explained the history of North Coast First Nations art to Prince Rupert Secondary School’s First Nations art and culture class, he impressed the importance of the next generation in Lax Kw’alaams and other North Coast Aboriginals in learning about their history and cultural structures.

Which conferred a significant responsibility on his own generation to teach those who want to learn. He’s hoping to have a preliminary ceremony in the non-descript office tucked away on Kaien Rd. before the raising ceremony this winter.

“We are entrusted to take this responsibility on. We know quite a bit about the oral history of our culture and we must explain that history,” said Stewart.

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