TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO North Island Secondary School’s grade eight woodworking class, along with Principal Jay Dixon, pulled the tarp off the new totem pole that ‘Namgis Chief Don Svanvik will be carving this semester with help from the students, giving Gazette readers a special sneak peek at the project.

NISS’ totem pole project back on schedule


North Island Secondary School (NISS) Principal Jay Dixon is proud to announce Kwakwaka’wakw artist Chief Don Svanvik will be back this semester to help the students carve the 20-foot totem pole.

“Carving resumes next week, the middle of September,” confirmed Dixon, who added Svanvik will be coming back with other helpers from the community to get the project back in action.

Dixon said NISS is “hoping to have every student in our school get to have a hand in the project, and also every adult in the building as well — from the carving of the pole, to the raising of the pole, to the celebration and the protocols around it, everyone is going to be participating.”

The totem pole’s design “is a surprise at this point,” said Dixon. “Chief Svanvik has been keeping it very close, but the theme of our school is family, and we hope to have the pole represent the many different families that are involved with our school.”

He added the project “represents integration of cultural programs. Within all of our courses, we want to see more and more First Nation’s programming, representation, and identity. This project is a statement of identity that our students and community can be really proud of.”

NISS is hoping the project will be finished by the end of its first semester, but Dixon wants to take it slow.

“We will see how the carving goes,” he said, adding “part of the project is to not rush the carving, because we want to have all of our students and faculty involved in the learning that will be happening from Mr. Svanvik and his family helping us.”

Once the new totem pole is finished, it will have a spot in the front of the school “in the grassy area, where everybody in the community will be able to see it,” said Dixon, who then confirmed the original totem pole from 1975 will be staying in its rightful place.

“It was placed there in 1975 and it will be staying there.”

Dixon stressed the project wouldn’t have come to fruition without the support of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s Arts Program and the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.

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