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Hudson’s Hope longhouse taking shape

Totem poles to arrive from Fort Nelson this fall 
Curtis Dickie working diligently on the next set of totem poles.
The River of the Peace Metis Society is carving out its future in Hudson’s Hope with totem poles representing the four elements expected to arrive this September.  

The poles will be just one aspect of a longhouse being built at the local school, a project fully funded by BC Hydro and overseen by the society.  

Society president and project manager Valerie Paice says the totem poles and the longhouse will provide a much-needed gathering space for the community, connecting residents to indigenous culture and heritage.  

“This is something we need because everything’s down there – baseball, soccer, all the barbeques and community tournaments. I think it’s going to be a benefit,” she said. “We’re putting something in the community that everyone can share.”  

The poles themselves are being carved by Curtis Dickie, a former chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation, who belongs to both the Kwakwaka'wakw and Dene people, and is currently the nation’s culture co-ordinator.  

Paice said she’s grateful for Dickie’s hard work and is looking forward to seeing the completed totem poles, represented by wind, water, earth, and fire, making the longhouse inclusive of all First Nations.

“Our infinity sign will be on it, but there’s also 12 nations that I work with. I think it’s going to be a nice asset to the community, instead of putting up tents all the time and then taking them down,” she said.  

Dickie says he started carving in 2007 as a way to honour his Kwakiutl First Nations heritage with family in Port Hardy.  

“I’ve kind of blended the two different forms of art into my own, and it seems to be getting more and more attention as I go,” he said. “This is my first real significant commissioned piece. I’ve done several large panels and different carvings that have been recognized in the Peace Regional Juried Art Exhibition.”  

The elements are being etched into Douglas fir, which is not the typical wood choice of a totem carver; red cedar is traditionally used as softwood is far more pliable and easier to work with.  

“Basically I took a piece of paper and started sketching out what I envisioned would represent these elements best. Once that was sketched out I put it on the logs and began carving,” said Dickie.  

Despite the material, Dickie is creating art at an astonishing rate – two pieces have been completed, with two more to go. Wind and water remain, with fire and earth already finished.   

The Northern Rockies Arts Council was informed of the endeavour, and has recruited local photographer Tiffany Weatherston to capture Dickie’s progress on film.  

“It is an exciting undertaking we wanted to share with the community,” said the council.  

Weatherston said she was honoured to take part, and has had the pleasure of shooting many scenes for local groups.  

“I’m there to document everything, and it’s been going well. I’ve seen his process and how some of the ideas have changed and evolved because of the way the wood is,” she said.  

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative.  

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