Sno’uyutth begins the long journey to Oak Bay High

First Nations cultural event to raise funds for the welcome pole

Songhees carver Clarence Dick begins to strip the bark from the log that will become Sno’uyutth.

A simple blessing, to be followed by a more detailed one, set Sno’uyutth on the right path.

Carver Clarence Dick can already see the artwork in the Sooke log as it sits awaiting his hand in a carving shed at the Songhees Nation.

“I always look at the wood, at the grain,” said Dick. “Usually I can visualize the design in the wood. I think about the symbolic creatures in the design. I get inspiration from wildlife of the northwest coast, the animals. The creatures of the air, sea and land, even the supernatural beings.”

The log was felled long ago, and recently pulled from the wilderness and given a simple blessing by Dick. While he’s started stripping the bark, it will get another culturally significant blessing before the real work begins.

“I’m thinking about Sno’uyutth, the pole’s name meaning spreading good energy. I want to reach out to the people of Oak Bay and educate the community,” said Dick, who will carve the pole. “I want to let them know about our culture and make sure they know we’re still here. The land and the water there was really important to our people.”

Clarence’s father, renowned carver Butch Dick, was commissioned to design a welcome pole for the Community Association of Oak Bay to place at the new Oak Bay High when it’s slated to open this fall. He created Sno’uyutth and happens to be the artist behind the poles at the Songhees Health and Wellness Centre adjacent to the carving hut.

Co-chair of the project Joseph Blake said they’d hoped to have the work carved primarily on site at Oak Bay High, but that won’t be feasible.

“This facilitates the Songhees desire for outreach to come to the Songhees Wellness Centre as part of the visit to learn about the culture. You couldn’t learn about it better than visiting the wellness centre,” Blake said.

It’s also easier on the carving team to do the bulk of the work out of the carving hut adjacent to the new Songhees Health and Wellness Centre on Admirals Road.

Blake expects the next four to six months will be spent carving, they hope to place the pole this fall.

“We’re ahead of schedule and the school is ahead of schedule,” Blake said.

The next fundraiser for the project is a First Nations night highlighting history and culture at The Oaks Restaurant and Tea Room. It features singers, dancers, drummers, poetry, cultural presentations and a First Nations menu.

Entertainment includes Victoria poet laureate Janet Rogers, eight family members of the Esquimalt Singers and Dancers, and Cheryl Bryce of the Songhees Nation will share their cultural anthropology. Asma-na-hi Antoine, indigenous education and student services manager at Royal Roads, will talk about Songhees history and culture while the two generations of artists, Clarence and Butch, will also be on hand.

“We had an auction last time that raised almost $1,000,” said Blake of a previous benefit concert.

Products up for auction at the last minute ranged from hand analysis and architectural design to artwork. They expect to add another auction for this evening of entertainment.

The CAOB has raised roughly $27,000 of the expected $88,000 cost associated with the welcome figure for Oak Bay High.

“We’re going to make it, there’s not a doubt in my mind,” Blake said.

The event will be held March 28 at 7 p.m. at The Oaks Restaurant and Tea Room, 2250 Oak Bay Ave. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, available at the venue or by calling 250-590-3155.

The next fundraising concert, planned for April 18, is slated to be a jazzy affair.