Terrace, BC – Community members and college staff gathered Wednesday to raise a totem pole outside the new student housing building, Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat (where learners are content or comfortable) at the Terrace campus of Coast Mountain College. The campus sits on the unceded traditional Tsimshian territory of the Kitsumkalum Laxghibuu Clan.
The design of the pts’ann (totem pole) is dedicated to the territory holders, and features the wolf and the bear. A matriarch figure is placed between the wolf’s ears and at the base of the pole is a male figure holding a copper shield.
Stan Bevan (Tsimshian/Tahltan/Tlingit), master carver, designed the pole and worked with his team of alumni of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art: Brian McKee (Tsimshian), James Lewis (Tsimshian/Tahltan), and Kobe Antoine (Nedut’en), to create it.
Salidiiks Mediik (Don Wells), Galdm Algyax (speaker for Sm’ooygit Wudi Waye), acted as master of ceremonies for the event. Other speakers included:
• Stan Bevan (Tsimshian/Tahltan/Tlingit), Master Carver and retired instructor from the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art
• Ken McNeil (Tahltan/Tlingit/Nisga’a), Master Carver and Instructor with the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art
• Dempsey Bob (Tahltan/Tlingit), Master Carver and senior advisor to the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art
• Bruce Denis, project lead for Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat
• X'staam Hana’ax (Tsimshian) (Nicole Halbauer) Chair of the Coast Mountain College Board of Governors
• Dr. Laurie Waye, President and CEO of Coast Mountain College
In 2018, Coast Mountain College’s First Nations Council requested new student housing that reflected and supported the rich culture, language, ceremony and land-based practices of the region the college serves. Thanks to Indigenous leadership at the college, in the community and on the project team, this vision became reality when the building opened in October 2021.
“The raising of the totem pole outside the student housing building completes the circle of unity and culture that breathe life into Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat, providing comfort to students from home and abroad during their educational and personal journeys,” said Bruce Denis.
The pole raising was followed by dancing and drumming and, later, a traditional feast including smoked salmon, fry bread, and seasonal fruit. The feast was prepared by CMTN Culinary students as part of their experiential learning.
[photos taken by Aaron Whitfield]
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