‘Spirit of the People’: Mowachaht/Muchalaht awaken totem pole at their new Gold River hotel | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

‘Spirit of the People’: Mowachaht/Muchalaht awaken totem pole at their new Gold River hotel

Gold River, BC

A beautifully carved 12 ft totem pole was revealed on May 22 as the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation welcomed community members and students from Ray Watkins Elementary and Gold River Secondary School for a traditional awakening ceremony in front of their newly constructed and owned Baymont by Wyndham Hotel.

The day’s events began with a prayer from the younger students. The sound of Frisco Lucas and Jimmy Johnson’s drums could be heard as the elders got to work brushing the newly installed totem pole created by master carver Sanford Williams. Students and community members soon joined in for song and dance.

“It’s really uplifting to see that our community of the Mowachaht/Muchahlaht take ownership and do an upgrade,” said Lucas. Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation spearheaded the renovations of the former Gold River Chalet, after their purchase of the hotel over a year ago. “Having ownership of the hotel really means a lot to our people,” he said.

“It's quite powerful in its own way because we’re able to open the ceremonies with our traditional chants and our brushings of the cedar,” said Lucas. “For me, the powerfulness happens in with itself, having all our youth together.”

“Cedar is often brought out to protect,” said Lucas. “That's what the ceremony was about… to protect the land that it’s on and the totem pole.”

While it is hoped that hotel renovations will soon come to completion, two more buildings remain to be constructed on the property, a welcome house and staff accommodation. 

The lucky attendees of the event were given escorted tours through the new luxury hotel, getting a preview of the blue colored rooms and soon-to-be window-lit restaurant. Azar Kamran CEO and administrator for MMFN, hopes to have the hotel available for bookings roughly around mid-June.

“I couldn’t believe it that our band took over this,” said Bruce Mark. “It makes the people very proud to own something like this.”

“We planned this for years and years and years and it's finally happening,” said Anthony Dick. “Now we got the hotel, we got the marina, now we got four vehicles to help us get around.”

“This is a step that we are taking in destination marketing planning for the territory,” said Kamran to the crowd that gathered.

The vision, he shared, extends from Gold River to Tahsis to Campbell River which will utilize the “already existing assets of this territory.”

“This beautiful, wonderful territory that is ready for responsible tourism,” said Kamran. “Tourism that has its foundation engraved in ensuring that the sustainability, creation of jobs, and inflow of outside investment into our territory.”

In an interview Ha-Shilth-Sa, Sanford Williams, master carver and creator of the 12 ft totem pole shared that the totem pole is named, “Spirit of the people.”

“I call this spirit of the people which represents the transition from the generation to generation,” said Williams. “I carved a couple of wolves on there along with humans in between the ears and the belly of the wolves.”

He reflects that in potlatches wolves are used as guardian.

“I'm also making another pole which is going to be 20 foot and it's going to be the same scene of the wolf and humans,” said Williams, noting that he will also be carving two doors for the facilty.

“It's [the] first time I've ever been called to do something special for a hotel, [locally] like somewhere in Gold River and it's such an honor for me,” said Williams. “It’s pretty special to me.”


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