Vancouver, B.C. – The First Nations Education Foundation (FNEF) has released a short online video – the first in a series of videos that will document the carving of a 70-foot Language Revitalization Pole. The pole was commissioned to celebrate the United Nations’ 2019 Year of Indigenous Languages and is to be carved by renowned Nuu-chah-nulth carver Tim Paul – part of the Hesquiaht Tribe of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.
The 4-minute online video posted by FNEF – which can be accessed here – documents the recent Pole Naming Ceremony that took place on January 23rd in the territory of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. The project team, led by carver Tim Paul, selected an 800-year old red cedar tree that fell naturally during a windstorm sometime during the past 50 to 70 years. An additional video clip is also available on the FNEF videos page showing the end cut being bucked off the massive log.
In the video, carver Tim Paul talks about the significance of the tree that was selected and what the tree represents in the context of Truth and Reconciliation: “It’s holding something of importance; the language, the key to who we are and how we are able to be the ones that survived to bring things forward. To share and be in amongst our neighbours. To give us goodwill, to give us something like this.”
Carver Tim Paul has named the pole čiiʔiłumqa – his grandmother’s name – which means “holding something of importance” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language.
The pole carving process is being documented by filmmaker Dale Devost. The footage will later be used as content for language lessons on the FNEF platform which was developed in partnership with Six Factor, western Canada’s Leading Google Cloud Partner. The FNEF Language Revitalization Pole project has received the patronage of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and the film footage will also be distributed to the 11,000 UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) in over 180 countries.
Although the term “totem pole” is typically used in English to describe carved poles such as the Language Revitalization Pole, the correct term in the Nuu-chah-nulth language is č̓iin̓uł which literally means “cutting along.”
The Pole Naming Ceremony was led by Edward Johnson, the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. Once the Language Revitalization Pole is completed it will be gifted to the University of Victoria where it will stand, with the blessing and support of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, in recognition of the University’s leadership in Language Revitalization and Indigenous Studies.
Tim Paul and Forestry experts from Western Forest Products recently confirmed the physical integrity of the 800-year old red cedar tree log and arrangements are currently being made to transport the log from its current forest location to the carving location in Port Alberni. NOTE: FNEF will be advising interested media in advance of the log’s arrival at the carving location. The date for transporting the log has yet to be determined.