Welcome Pole Greets Visitors to Lekwungen Territory
A 30-foot Welcome Pole carved by renowned artist Tom LaFortune was installed on October 4 at Lime Bay Park next to the Victoria International Marina.
The Pole was commissioned by the Victoria International Marina in 2017, after holding conversations with local Esquimalt and Songhees leaders about an art installation on marina property that would have authentic ties to the land and its Lekwungen stewards.
Songhees elders indicated that a Welcome Pole would be the most appropriate art form, given the area’s Indigenous history.
Located on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, the area now known as Lime Bay (along with the small crescent bay in front of the Royal Quays condo complexes) once formed a large bay, with gently sloping sandy beaches where First Nations welcomed visitors to land their canoes and make camp.
“After a long journey, we are excited to see the Welcome Pole being raised at the Victoria International Marina,” says Chief Ron Sam, Songhees Nation. “The undertaking of this project has spanned over years, and we thank the carver, Tom LaFortune, for his work and dedication to this project. We look forward to visitors being welcomed by one of our traditional Salish ways, and the continued work Victoria International Marina will do to strengthen Lekwungen presence.”
Victoria International Marina CEO Craig Norris says “We are proud to have worked with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations throughout the development of the entire marina project. We’re grateful for their support, guidance and leadership and are thrilled to see the Pole installed in its permanent home, a visual testament to the land’s Lekwungen origins and significance.”
Welcome Pole Description:
“The 30-foot welcome pole starts with the grandmother’s killer whale who came into the village to let her grandson know there are canoes floundering on outside waters. She took her grandson out to welcome them into safe harbour. Above the welcome figure is a Salish design that represents past present and future. Above this are two otters, one with a sea urchin and the other with a large clam. These were done to represent hard work, playfulness and strength of family. On top is the eagle with the wings at his side; this shows the eagle as overseeing all the daily activities in the village.” – Tom LaFortune.
About the Artist:
KETIWTEL/Katekwa het Tom LaFortune is a proud member of the Tseycum Nation who has connections to several families whose ancestral lands are in the southern part of what is now
known as Vancouver Island. He finished his first carving when he was just 11 years old.
In the years that followed, Tom has carved masks, rattles, paddles, dishes, talking sticks, single
figures and countless poles. He has also made and painted drums. Today his work is distinguished by its fluidity and refined use of colour.
Tom’s work can be found in collections all over the world. Some of his most notable works include the Harvest Time and Owl Spirit poles completed for Duncan’s City of Totems project, the totem pole commissioned by CBC and featured on television coverage on the 1994 Commonwealth Games, a single owl figure overlooking the Ross Fountain at the world-famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, S’ael, a twenty-five foot pole completed as part of Royal Roads University’s 75 years of changing lives celebrations, a Salish arch for the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, and a 41 ½ foot pole at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.
Credit – Ken Barnes, Salish Eye Productions
Canoes – Ocean Spirit (Max Henry), Victoria Police (Jason Laidman), Power to Be (Paora)
Drummers – Bubba Qwulshemut (blanketed) and Clay Qwulshemut, both of Cowichan Tribes
Artist – Tom LaFortune
Blanket Ceremony – members of the Rice family
The Victoria International Marina is a division of Community Marine Concepts Ltd. and is the first of several exclusive marinas which will be developed to cater to the superyacht marina industry within British Columbia and beyond.