Dignitaries gather for the unveiling of a new totem pole Thursday at the BC Elders Gathering.

Dignitaries gather for the unveiling of a new totem pole Thursday at the BC Elders Gathering.

Totem pole unveiled at BC Elders Gathering

An exquisite totem pole was unveiled Thursday at the close of the B.C. Elders Gathering.

An exquisite totem pole was unveiled Thursday at the close of the B.C. Elders Gathering.

Tsilhqot’in Chief Joe Alphonse introduced master carver Skip Saunders from the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola.  Saunders is a third generation carver, grandson of Clayton Mack.

“The totem tells the story of the strength of our families,” explained Karen Anderson from the Nuxalk Nation, adding that being the low man on the totem pole is a place of strength and connection to Mother Earth.

“This totem binds us together as people of the land,” she continued.

“This was a very powerful and very special thing to be asked to do,” Saunders said. “As hereditary chief it’s my job to help the people, and bringing forth this art is helping the people.”

He said that the log chosen for the totem pole has ties to his community going back 30 years.

“It was milled in Saloompt, and waited 25 years for me to carve it,” he continued. “When I was young and heard about the log, I said it meant nothing to me; now it means everything.”

Saunders slept beside the pole for three months working on it every day.

“This pole is telling you we are one family tied together,” he said.