The Rediscovery Camp at taa laang stlang has a new pole depicting a story about ‘Stoneribs’ carved by Christian White of Old Massett.
The seven-foot pole was erected in front of the camp’s central longhouse last Tuesday (July 15). That morning, the youth took turns carrying the pole along the trail from the ceremonial fire site to the longhouse.
“It was encouraging to see the young people showing their strength,” Mr. White said. “It was to give them the feeling they’re involved with the pole and doing their part.”
The night before, pole had been an honourary guest at the ceremonial fire held the last night of camp, where one participant is named ‘Stoneribs’, the highest accomplishment at Rediscovery. This session’s Stoneribs was Noel Williams, one of the youth who helped carry the pole into camp.
Mr. White worked on the pole with assistant Pat Wesley and apprentices Vernon White and Allan Weir. He said he briefly considered selling the piece, but decided instead to have his company, Haida Canoe Totem and Design, donate the pole to Rediscovery.
“I decided taa laang stlang, where the Rediscovery Camp is, that would be the place to raise the pole, keep more Haida art on island.”
The pole depicts the adventurous youth Stoneribs with his supernatural halibut skin, battling the giant crab of Naden Harbour, Mr. White said. The name of the pole is k’aagaay gyaa.ang, meaning uncle or big halibut pole.
After he completed the pole last Friday (July 11), Mr. White and his apprentices carried the pole out for its unveiling in Old Massett. Elders – Willis White, Lavina White, Mary Swanson, Ethel Jones, Gertie White, Wesley Bell, Pat Weir, Agatha Weir, Dian White, Sharon Matthews, and Lily Bell – were invited to come and view it. Rev. Lily Bell did a prayer and prayer song and the pole was raised up.
The next day, the pole journeyed to Kiusta with Mr. White, his wife Candace and daughters Pamela and Tamara. They visited the camp while staying at Kiusta, then joined the team carrying the pole through the forest, along a winding trail, over a narrow bridge and stream and along the sandy beach to taa laang stlang.
Mr. White said taa laang stlang (Lepas Bay) and the camp mean a lot to him. The area is part of his grandfather’s old hunting grounds. He grew up hearing many stories about that part of the islands. He recently joined the Rediscovery Society board of directors, and last year he gave the camp an 18-foot long painted Haida canoe.
Rediscovery holds several camp sessions throughout the summer, with about a dozen youth at each session. Donations of canned deer meat, fish, seafood and dried seafood are always greatly appreciated, he said.
“It helps the youth gain a little bit of discipline and respect. They learn how to take initiative and responsibility,” Mr. White said. “I feel that Rediscovery is a very worthwhile program for all islanders to contribute to.”
He was saddened, however, to learn that one of the camp’s most precious possessions, a whale rib signed by all the Stoneribs for the past 20 or so years, is missing. If anyone knows where it is, please leave a message for camp coordinator Chris Adams at 626-5252.
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