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September 18, 2009
HAZELTON – Over 500 people turned out to Northwest Community College’s (NWCC) Hazelton Campus on Friday, Sept. 11 to witness and celebrate two totem poles being raised in a public ceremony. The contemporary pole raising was facilitated by Chief Dawamuuxw, Larry Patsy with words of welcome offered by Shelley Johnson, representative of Gyetimgaldo’o. Gitxsan Chief Nikate’en Francis Sampson, offered a blessing of the gathering followed by remarks from NWCC Board of Governors Chair Irene Seguin, Hagwiloo K’am Saxwhl_Giis, NWCC Chair of First Nations Council, Diane Collins and NWCC President Stephanie Forsyth. Members of NWCC’s First Nations Council, which comprises more than 50 educational leaders from First Nations communities across the Northwest and the Métis Nation were also in attendance and spoke of their support of the pole raising and their pride in the work of the artists. Groups of onlooking volunteers then picked up the two 14-foot contemporary totem poles over their heads and carefully positioned each of them in place.
Commissioned by NWCC, the poles were carved by Hereditary Chief and Master Carver Earl Muldon, Dagalmuux, Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art Gitxsan graduates Rick Wesley (Anspayaxw) and Arlene Ness (Anspayaxw), with help from carver Dan Yunkws, (Gitanmaax).
The figures on these poles honour the heritage of all Gitxsan and do not focus on one person or house group, but rather Gitxsan stories. One totem depicts Owl at the top, followed below by Beaver, with Man Half Way out at the base. On the other pole, Raven sits above the Sun, and Man with Salmon is at the base. “The poles were designed to focus on the building of community, the college’s connection to the communities it serves and its commitment to respecting the culture and tradition of First Nations people,” said Forsyth.
“The students did a very good job; the growth in their skills under the tutelage of Dagalmuux is clearly evident,” stated Dempsey Bob, artist and Senior Advisor of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. “The figures are strong, the carving lines clean and deep. They should be proud of their achievement.”
Students of First Nations or Métis background make up 49 per cent of those attending NWCC, which boasts the highest population of First Nations students in Western Canada.
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Northwest Community College
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