The Royal BC Museum, along with The BC Ministry of Health and Timberwest, have collaborated to create the Crossing Cultures and Healing Totem Pole Project. Tsawout Carvers, and brothers, Tom and Perry LaFortune have designed and are carving a pole on site at the Royal BC Museum.
In order for the pole to have the proper dimensions, Tom and Perry had to measure a circle on both sides of the log and then use a saw to cut off the excess wood.
In order to saw around the whole circle they use a mechanical jack to lift and rotate the log.
To make sure they are cutting in a straight and even line across the pole they use a chalk line. This helps them know if they need to adjust their grip or height.
Once the pole has been prepped, Tom and Perry begin the initial shaping. This creates the general shape of the pole's figures and design. This is done using chainsaws.
When doing the initial shaping on the pole, Perry asked Tom to come and see an idea he had. He noticed there was an empty space in their design and Perry had the idea to add a frog, a symbol of the conscience to the Tsawout Nation. Tom agreed with Perry and they began sketching a frog design onto the pole.
While watching Tom and Perry sketch the frog design onto the pole, you were witnessing their strong connection and unique work ethic that comes from years of working together and their brotherly bond. They would pass the pencil back and forth, each adding in their own style with their individual talents.
Perry is shown measuring his sketch for the woman design. Perry explained the math that goes into their poles, as they measure their designs to scale.The woman is a symbol of the Tsawout Nation's matriarchal ways and represents Perry and Tom's mother. She is a symbol of strength and resilience for them as she attended residential school.
The owl, in the Tsawout culture, is an all-seeing being. They are able to see into the past, future, and present, that is why they can rotate their head. Tom and Perry chose to include the owl in this piece, as the theme of "Crossing Cultures and Healing" requires us to reflect on the past and present to instill change and healing for the future.
The raven is the figure on top of the pole as they are the messenger of good news for the Tsawout and Saanich people. The raven received this title as it was a raven who brought the Saanich people the news that the great flood had ended.
Intertwined among the different figures, Tom and Perry are carving in a rope. This represents the rope that the Saanich people used to tie themselves to a tree on the mountain during the great flood. It helped keep their people together and safe. It was also in this story that they began calling themselves "the emerging people".
On July 30, 2018 the Crossing Cultures and Healing pole was brought on site to the Royal BC Museum. This is where Tom and Perry LaFortune will continue to carve the pole until it is completed in October.