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Eagle carving to watch over Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Powerful carving to watch over Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ traditional territories within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Clifford George’s powerful new eagle carving was unveiled to loud cheers at a June 28 celebration.

A powerful carving has been unveiled to welcome and watch over visitors to the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ traditional territories within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

The totem was carved by renowned artist Clifford George through a collaboration between Parks Canada and the Elders Working Group with Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ elders choosing a cixwatin, eagle, to be placed within their territory at the Park Reserve’s southern border.

“The way I saw it in my mind is just the way it is as you see it,” George told the Westerly News after a June 28 unveiling celebration. “I was looking forward to this day. I’m so happy that they chose me to do the pole for them. Today is a really exciting day.”

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government’s director of culture, language and heritage Carey Cunneyworth told the Westerly that the cixwatin was chosen because of its ability to watch over everyone.

“The eagle flies above with great sight. It sees all and it’s the being that can see everything. It’s observing every one of us when it flies up high and it watches everybody passing in and out of the Park Reserve protecting everybody,” Cunneyworth said.

The Park Reserve’s superintendent Dave Tovell told the Westerly that the Elders Working Group had provided a myriad of advice throughout the construction of the recently completed ʔapsčiik t̓ašii multi-use path that spans the 25 kilometres between the Park Reserve’s southern and northern borders. Through the group, Tla-o-qui-aht and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ elders collaborated on the commemoration of both Nations through carved monuments that reflect the connection between the two communities and the Park Reserve, according to Tovell.

“They gave the direction that it shouldn’t be a Parks led commemoration piece, it should be Indigenous led,” he said. “Parks Canada came up with the mechanisms to provide funding to both Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ and Tla-o-qui-aht to do what they wanted to do in their territory to represent what they wanted to represent…The Elders working group really gave this whole project direction and guidance on how to work together in a good way.”

He noted that Tla-o-qui-aht carver Joe Martin had carved the stunning wolves located near Incinerator Rock on the other end of the Park Reserve within the Tla-o-qui-aht’s traditional territories

“It’s a nice match to Clifford’s and Joe’s work and the connection of the two Nations,” he said. “We’re super proud of the relationship between the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Parks Canada and how this project has kind of tied it and created a closer relationship between the three governments.”

He added George’s cixwatin was placed to be seen by all the drivers, cyclists and pedestrians heading into the Park Reserve to raise awareness of whose traditional territories they’re in.

“That awareness is extremely important and that they can show Isaac, which is respect in Nuu-chah-nulth and that they’re aware that it’s not just a National Park Reserve but the traditional territories of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ,” he said. “It’s amazing…To see the finished product out here has absolutely been incredible.”

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government President Charles McCarthy opened the celebration by welcoming the audience to the Nation’s territory and said the cixwatin would watch over all within it.

“I raise my hands up to Clifford. It’s been a long time coming and I know there’s been difficulties throughout getting things to this point. I want to acknowledge Clifford for his effort. He’s always been one to stand up and do things for the community,” McCarthy said. “He’s always been there to lift us up with his art and this is reflective of what is in all our hearts as Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ.”

Cunneyworth served as the MC for the unveiling and thanked those who came to celebrate the new carving.

“There was a lot of back and forth and quite a few barriers, but we got through it and this is the evidence of doing it in a good way,” he said. “Really, truly thank you all for coming out to witness this. I’m so happy to see it up here.”

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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