A totem pole will be watching over children when the new Tillicum Lelum Childcare Centre opens.
Completion of the centre, located on Tenth Street in south Nanaimo, is still months away, but construction reached a point Monday to where work crews could install a totem pole in what will be the centre’s gallery.
The totem pole is a protection pole. Its original design was conceived by master carver Richard Carlton who started carving the pole in 2013 from a 370-year-old yellow cedar log donated by Coastal Woodlands. Carlton included students in the work through the Aboriginal Outreach alternative learning program hosted at Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
After Carlton died in December, the carving was completed by William and Joel Good.
The totem pole was blessed in a ceremony Monday morning and installed that afternoon with help from Island Timberframe, Gateway Timberframe Construction and Built Contracting.
Elements of the totem pole include a human atop a thunderbird, a bear holding a salmon, a wolf, and frogs on the thunderbird’s wings.
“The main animal is the thunderbird. It’s a supernatural being. It’s about our connection to the universe and everything in the universe. It’s the most powerful animal symbol,” said Tammie Myles, childcare centre project manager.
Myles went on to explain the small human on the thunderbird’s back represents how mankind is supported by the universe and all the creatures in it. The frogs represent new beginnings and transformations and the bear and wolf stand for loyalty and strength in family. The fish represents sustenance. All elements, she said, that are important to the early development of a child.
In an interview in 2013, Carlton explained the thunderbird’s wings folding around the other elements in the design were meant to symbolize protection.
The totem pole stands facing inward to watch over the children and activities of the centre.
Myles said construction of the centre is scheduled to be completed in October and that she hopes a building occupancy permit will be approved in November.