Pole raising historic

  • May. 22, 2009 11:00 a.m.

by Deirdre Brennan, NHA–An historic event took place at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre in Masset last Monday with the raising of a Haida totem pole. Xaad Xilaa Gyaahlaang Gyaa’aamg (Medicine Story Pole) was commissioned by the Old Massett Village Council which gave it to the hospital. It was carved by master Haida carver Christian White and apprentices.A large crowd from islands communities along with off-island guests gathered on a beautiful spring afternoon. Once the ceremonies were completed, the audience was invited to find a place on one of the ropes. Under the direction of Gene Davidson of Old Massett, everyone pulled together on the ropes until the pole was standing up, a moving and exhilarating experience. And fitting as well, considering this hospital is the direct result of the three northern Haida Gwaii communities (Masset, Old Massett and Port Clements) working together to form a partnership with Northern Health and the province.The first figure on the pole is Noble One Standing and Moving. He supports Haida Gwaii and when he moves around, we have earthquakes. On top of Noble One are three watchmen representing the communities of Old Massett, Masset and Port coming together to build the hospital and health centre. Next is the shaman, who can travel back and forth between the natural and supernatural worlds. Above him is Mouse Woman, who gives medicine and advice to the Chief’s Son for the help she has received from him.On top is the Chief’s Son wearing a bear headdress, holding a copper shield. He has been to Taan (Bear) Mountain to fast and during his purification he received a valuable piece of information. Copper is a symbol of wealth. Following the pole raising everyone was invited to the Old Masset Community Hall for a delicious feast prepared by local culinary arts students. There were speeches from the hereditary chiefs, a representative from each of the villages of Masset, Old Massett and Port Clements, and Northern Health’s Sheila Gordon-Payne, NH Board Member Cam McIntyre, and Masset Site Manager Kim Mushynsky. Several NH staff members distributed commemorative cards to the audience.A fabulous presentation was then given by the Tluu Xaadaa Naay (Canoe People’s House) Dance Group, which featured dancers portraying all of the figures on the pole. Then everyone was invited to take part in the Women’s Dance followed by the Men’s Competition Dance. A big How’aa to Old Massett Village Council and Christian White, his family and apprentices, along with many others too numerous to mention for giving us this memorable experience.

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