Friends and family gathered in Old Massett to raise a memorial pole for Ben Davidson on Oct. 15. (Photo: Kim Goetzinger)

Friends and family gathered in Old Massett to raise a memorial pole for Ben Davidson on Oct. 15. (Photo: Kim Goetzinger)

Hundreds gather to Old Massett to raise memorial pole for Ben Davidson

Renowned Haida artist Reg Davidson carved the pole for his late nephew

Hundreds gathered to witness the raising of a memorial totem pole Reg Davidson (skil kaat’laas) carved for his late-nephew, Ben Davidson, on Oct. 15.

Ben’s Haida name was tlaajang nang kingaas which means ‘he who is heard of all over’, Reg said. Fittingly, friends and family came from all over, as far as Newfoundland, to witness the pole raising in Old Massett.

“They all came for Ben,” Reg said.

Following the raising, there was a feast that started at 2 p.m. and went past midnight.

The pole has been seven months in the making. Reg made the first cut into the red cedar log on March 9, he said.

“It’s actually a log that Ben found, it was at his studio,” Reg said.

He explained how he asked Tawni, Ben’s wife, if he could use the log to carve a pole and she said she had given it to Ben’s father, Robert Davidson, whose Haida name is Guud Sans Glans. Robert agreed to let Reg use it.

Like his father and uncle, Ben was also an artist. He began carving as early as four and officially started apprenticing with his father and uncle when he turned 16, Robert Davidson’s website states.

Ben died unexpectedly on Aug. 15, 2020.

“Everybody that came was here for him because of who he was and the love that he had for his family, his wife and kids,” Reg said.

He had five children, Gavin, Dustin, Jayde, Juno and Jasper.

“Everything he did revolved around his family, like every time he did sports, he always had one kid in tow. Whether towing them on a bike or pushing them in a stroller when they were little kids.

“The love he had for his kids and wife, it was echoed all night.”

Fifteen people helped work on the memorial pole, Reg said. Some were hired and others volunteered to work on it.

“There was a couple of people that would come every morning for two hours. They’d work for two hours and then go to work,” Reg said.

“They were doing this because they cared about Ben, they wanted to be part of it. They came and helped and wanted to be part of it.”

The bottom figure on the pole is a bear with a frog on it, the frog is his wife, Tawni’s crest.

In the middle is a raven, which is actually a raven rattle, Reg explained. It is used when they do the headdress for chiefs and Ben had a chief’s name, that was why Reg chose it.

The top figure is a shark.

“It was a relief,” Reg said referring to the pole raising. He said there was a little complication but it resolved itself.

The pole now stands more than 30 feet tall outside of Reg and Robert’s father’s longhouse.

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Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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