New Oak Bay High to be home to Songhees-designed welcoming pole

Sno’uyutth: spreading good energy

Songhees pole campaign starts

The Earth Mother tops Sno’uyutth, the welcoming pole designed for Oak Bay High by master Songhees carver Butch Dick. Her hair flows down the back symbolizing Bowker Creek as it shimmers past the school. Rivers and streams, they are the life blood of environment.

It’s a part of the design that draws joy from Joseph Blake co-leader of the Community Association of Oak Bay project team.

“I love everything about this project,” Blake said, gesturing to the other animals outlined on the pole, including the eagle intertwined in Earth Mother’s hair down the back. “We’re really making reconciliation here. This is positive stuff.”

The Community Association of Oak Bay undertook the project to develop a welcoming pole last spring, commissioning Butch Dick for a design and getting approval from the school board to place it at the new high school. They earned approval to have Butch’s son Clarence Dick and a carving team do the work on site

“It can be an educational tool the whole time it’s being made,” Blake said. They hope to have all-ages visit the carving area when work is underway.

School District #61 also agreed to provide ongoing maintenance once the work is complete.

“Imagine for the 60 First Nation students at Oak Bay High,” Blake said. “(How) will it make them feel, finally being acknowledged?”

With a design in place, and some basic funding for the estimated $88,000 total cost, the Community Association of Oak Bay is ready to launch the welcoming pole called Sno’uyutth, Coast Salish for ‘spreading good energy’ as part of Culture Days on Sept. 27 at the high school.

“We’re going to have Songhees drummers right there where the carving shed will be,” Blake said.

Clarence will demonstrate carving, his father will describe the components – camas, eagle, blue heron sea otters and frog – and what each symbolizes and Victoria poet laureate Janet Rogers will do a reading. There will also be totem pole colouring, or design, for the kids.

“We really want families to come. This is public art that will be on the site for hundreds of years,” Blake said. “We have this image of the Tweed curtain. It is not true. We’re a young, vibrant community.”

The Culture Days event runs Sept. 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the grass area on Cadboro Bay Road in front of the West Building of the existing high school.

They hope to have the pole in place in fall 2015, the expected completion date for the new school.

How to give

Receipts for donations of $50 and more are available through a partnership with Rotary Club of Oak Bay. Mail to the Community Association of Oak Bay, 138-2017A Cadboro Bay Rd., V8R 5G4