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VIDEO: Songhees youth help unveil Soul of a Wolf in Oak Bay

Saanich artist Kent Laforme thanks elders for their stories, knowledge

“A great chief passes away and a wolf disperses from the pack, travels great distances and swims through the ocean currents, comes out on ancestral lands and he lives for eight years howling among big houses that have been sleeping for thousands of years, honouring his ancestors as a sign the chief is still with them across the water for all of us to hear, for all of us to learn from, for all of us to follow.”

Those poetic words of Saanich artist Kent Laforme flowed through the crowd on a warm, sunny fall day at Cattle Point in Oak Bay.

“For me, that’s Stqeya and that’s what I think when I look through this portal,” he said.

Laforme spent years creating the large marble sculpture called The Soul of a Wolf.

Stqeya swam to the islands, collectively known as Tl’Ches, in 2012 and lived as a lone wolf for eight years before making the voyage back to Victoria in early 2020. Stqeya was captured in the James Bay neighbourhood and released in the wooded wilderness between Port Renfrew and Shawnigan Lake where he was shot and killed by a hunter.

The sculpture also pays homage to the late Songhees Nation Chief Robert Sam, the beloved chief who died shortly before the wolf appeared. Sam was a revered leader – in particular he was worried about youth and providing them a foundation, said Margaret Charlie, an elected councillor of Songhees who spoke, offering Chief Ron Sam’s regrets as he couldn’t attend.

“I really want to thank everyone for being here today. It means a lot to us as Lekwungen people to be able to participate and to have our stories woven into this piece of art,” she said.

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“The wolf means a lot to us. Probably everyone knows, but the wolf showed up on our islands after we lost Chief Robert Sam so it means a lot to us personally. And I’m very grateful to have this here in our territory to honour him, and it’s an honour to be able to do his work at the leadership table for our communities.”

The marble sculpture is carved from a locally sourced glacier erratic boulder that was pushed up onto the forest floor. Carvings in the sculpture share stories, and an opening offers a view of the islands where Stqeya lived.

It was officially unveiled Oct. 5 in front of a crowd. The lady drummers of the Lekwungen Dancers opened the ceremony and Songhees youth helped unveil the sculpture to finish.

“I’ve done my best to create what I believe is an elegy to the story of The Man of the Land, honouring the spirit and story of Stqeya for all of us so we can all learn together and enjoy this piece of artwork together,” Laforme said.

Both the artist and Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch thanked the Songhees elders. Many of them were in attendance to share their time, stories and knowledge.

Murdoch noted that Laforme, and donors of the art Ruth and Don James, remained steadfast in commitment to the project that began in 2020 and were willing to take the time to be still, listen and be guided by the elders.

“Our hope here is that this will be a really warm and welcoming place. A gathering place for people of all stripes.”

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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