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A Brand New Totem Pole
by Catherine

A brand new totem pole will be erected in the yard of New Westminster Secondary School on May 28, 2007. Its designer and sculptor is the well-known Aboriginal artist, Xwa-lack-tun (Rick Harry).

The totem he has worked on for the school is made of yellow cedar. He carved a thunderbird on the top and a wolf at the bottom. Much of his work is inspired by traditional stories.

“The thunderbird represents supernatural beings; the wolf means loyalty and family,” he explained to the students, “We are families here, New Westminster.”

Xwa-lack-tun, a son of a hereditary chief, was born and raised in Squamish. He gained his skills and education at the Emily Carr College of Art and Capilano College, but feels he learned a lot through trial and error.

“I’ve loved carving since I was a little boy, but I quit many times,” he said, “until I was 18 years old and my first production was sold.”

“I was wild at that time,” he confessed and smiled.

His works are seen throughout Vancouver and United States. A widely recognized piece is a set of double doors made from yellow cedar, both sides fully carved, for BC Hydro's main building in Vancouver.

In 2005, he received an honorable award from the North Vancouver Arts Council, which acknowledged his contributions both locally and world-wide.

He also completed a ten foot carving of a Bobcat in yellow cedar for Brookswood Secondary School in Langley. There are more than eighty of his pieces in the School Districts within the Lower Mainland.

Healing and growth have become a central theme around the work Xwa-lack-tun does. By focusing on how the traditional stories relate to his own life, he shows people how to use this ancient knowledge to help heal ourselves.