Transcript - Xastiyee, Gitlax̱t’aamiks

Chief Chester Moore Tx̱as-diyee master carver Before I talk about this pole I'd like to explain the history of the carver. The carver for this pole is my grandfather, my mother’s father, Sim’oogit Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen. He's wolf tribe. He did a lot of carving in his time. His english name is Moses Aksidaan(?). He's the one that is the master carver of this pole. And he was well known and he was well respected amongst the Nisga'a. But there are some unfortunate feelings from other wolf tribes towards him because what he does makes him very popular. One time, winter time, in the fall actually, he had some fermented salmon eggs. Somebody went over and gave him some fermented salmon eggs – one of the delicacies even today, it’s one of the delicacies for the Nisga’as. But you really have to watch how you make those get a little bit of blood of we call m’sah got in it and it turned posion. So the fermented salmon eggs that was given to him was poison. So he went and visit these people. He didn’t feel right so he went home. When he got back to his house, you know, he got really sick so he died over that, over that food he ate. There was a lot of trouble on his death between the wolf tribes. There was so much trouble over his death between the wolf tribes. So all the tribes on his funeral memorial, all the tribes from Gitlax̱t’aamiks and Gitwinksihlkw and other areas, Ging̱olx̱, come to his memorial service and they all take part by singing their dirge song we call limo’oh. Every one of them, every household sing the dirge song limo’oh. And they blew the swan’s down to the family. Soon as the swan’s down was blown to the family and to the people there should be no more conflict, no more hard feelings, it should be peace right after the swan’s down. That’s the power of the swan’s down. Soon as the Nisga'a see the swan’s down blown they stop the conflict, the fighting right away. So that’s what all the tribes used on his funeral. According to my mother, it's one of the biggest funerals there is in the Nass when he died. Almost everybody made it to the funeral. So thats the history of Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen, the carver of this pole [sings Nisga'a song] The name of the song is "Chief Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen.” He’s the one that carved this pole and he happened to be my grandfather. What I’m singing about is if it wasn't for my grandfather Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen, I wouldnt be here today. I wouldn’t be recognized today so I was paying tribute to Sim’oogit Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen, the carver of this pole. Martha Black I'm Martha Black. I'm the curator of ethnology at the Royal British Columbia museum. So, the pole was purchased by Marius Barbeau for the CNR and it was erected in the CNR park in Prince Rupert. A replica was made by William Jefferey who is called a Tsimshian artist before 1963. And then, in 1963 the original pole was donated to the RBCM. Another copy of it was done by Henry Hunt and his son Tony Hunt in the carving program at Thunderbird Park. Now, one of the reports of the provincial museum from 1963, I made a note of what it says. It said, “In June the City of Prince Rupert offered the museum three old totem poles – two Haida and one Nass river Tsimshian,” which is the pole that we are talking about, “which had been copied and declared surplus. Through the co-operation of the Canadian Navy they were brought to Victoria and they were stored in the indian house,” which is wawaditla, “in Thunderbird Park.” In October, they began to make a reproduction of the pole, and the next year in 1964 the annual report announces that they had finished the reproduction of the pole and it was going to be installed at the new University of Victoria campus where it still stands today. The pole was originally painted white, black, and red, it says here. In Prince Rupert commercial paint was applied over the whole surface. And you can see that in the picture reproduced in Drew’s book, The Totem Poles of Prince Rupert. All that paint was taken off by a man called John Smiley who worked in the museum’s display department in 1966. So the pole is now grey and has no traces of paint at all. When the pole was brought in to this building (which was built in 68, I believe) it used to be beside the escalators in what we call the Cliff Carl hall, which is the old lobby. You could go up the escalators and you'd see all the parts of the pole as you went up. It was there with the two large poles that are now in the new glass lobby. And when that glass lobby was built (and that was in 1996) the poles were moved into storage. The other poles were moved into the other location. This is because the escalator in that hall was taken out at the time. We knew that under the terms of the Nisga'a treaty which was being discussed that it was likely that the pole was going back to the Nass so we didn't put it up again. And it is as you know in the warehouse. It has been transferred under the terms of the Nisga'a final agreement to the Nisga'a government and will be going back at the request of the Nisga'a government. Eagle on decayed pole The name of the pole is Luu-ksgeets’ and the owner is Tx̱as-diyee, Lax̱sgiik chieftain, chieftain of Gook. And this pole here you can tell the difference of Nisga'a style of carving with deep grooves in them and hardly any paint. They did paint this pole just to preserve it and that’s why they put paint on it. Otherwise they don't need to be painted because they carved deep. And one thing I noticed about the eyes is sort of a round eyelids on top, then the bottom lid goes in there so that’s what I notice on this Nisga'a pole. And the bottom of the pole is gedum skakw – Eagle person. You know, gedum skakw. And along on top, there are three human figures. The name of these human figure is bidliks(?). That means they’re part of life, and dark at the bottom and the rest are his brothers, on top are his brothers. You can see their hands, they're clenching on something, they're really clenching for their lives. And when you get to the top the last person holds his hands out like this. This pole is about 51 feet tall and close to three feet, about three feet diameter. My name is Richard Morgan. My nisga'a name is Gaugeel. I'm standing in front of a pole carved by my great grandfather Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen. This pole is an eagle pole carved in honour of chieftain Tx̱as-diyee and Gook. This is a replica of a pole. It wasn't a real commemoration pole but a replica of a pole that burnt accidently in the late 1800s. This pole has been one of the most replicated poles, in the world I guess, but it has been carved by Tx̱aa-kw’ihleen, the first one. I don't know who carved the original. Then William Jeffries did one in the 60's. Tony hunt did one in the 70's and Dempsey Bob and Glen Wood did one in the 70's. That one's in Rupert. This is the white marten – masa’at. The next one is a split man, split person and the split person looks like an eagle. Split persons head right in half. And baxgyek (?) you call it. So that you see the eagle head just at the bottom of the cheek there of the man. So the next one is the three young persons – three people right around the pole. And that’s the story about the people who came down from heaven. And there’s two rows of those three people. So there's another row there. So carry on …. and this one, the last one, is a man who's holding his chest, and they've asked me to put hair on the head. And then the top part are two eagles. Those are two eagles, and that belongs to this pole Luu-ksgeets’.

Back to Pole of Xastiyee