Poles mark growing bond between BC Hydro, Campbell River First Nations

Totem poles placed on the John Hart dam site a symbol of a stronger relationship

A small group gathered to mark the installation of the totems last week. From left to right: Thomas Hunt, carver for Wei Wai Kum, Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts, Max Chickite, carver for We Wai Kai, Allister McLean, BC Hydro, We Wai Kai Chief Brian Assu, and Stephen Watson, BC Hydro. PHOTO: BC Hydro

Two new totem poles from the We Wai Kai Nation and the Wei Wai Kum Nation now stand on the John Hart lookout along the Canyon View Trail overlooking the Campbell River.

The poles are a testament to the collaboration between BC Hydro and the Nations throughout the planning and construction of the John Hart Generating Station Replacement project.

“Our relationship with We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum has deepened over the years,” says BC Hydro President and CEO Chris O’Riley. “Installation of these poles gives us an opportunity to look back and see how far we’ve come together. We’re proud to have them stand in recognition of our shared work.”

The We Wai Kai Nation pole, carved by Max Chickite with his assistants Jessica Chickite and Cody LaFrance, represents elements significant to We Wai Kai culture. These include an eagle, bear, salmon and sisiutl (sea serpent).

The Wei Wai Kum Nation pole, carved by Thomas D. Hunt with his apprentice Ray Shaw, includes a thunderbird, bear, salmon and human bubble man. These are significant figures in the Nation’s history, passed down through generations to Thomas’ parents, Mary Hunt and George Hunt Sr.

“I’ve been involved from the We Wai Kai Nation perspective for decades and we’ve come a long way with much work yet ahead,” said We Wai Kai Chief Brian Assu. “These poles are a symbol of our long and ongoing presence, and an improved relationship with BC Hydro.”

This sentiment is echoed by Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts, “We were never consulted on the original hydroelectric facilities or on its impact to our territory. The work done since 2007 has certainly helped, though deep emotions remain. There is also a lot of ongoing consultation for BC Hydro’s three proposed dam safety projects. We really appreciate BC Hydro’s idea to have these poles placed here, overlooking the river, to help to continue to move our relationship forward.”

While the figures on the poles have specific meaning, in this case, placing the poles side-by-side at the BC Hydro site also represents the collaboration and growing relationship between the Nations and BC Hydro.

RELATED: Campbell River’s Canyon View Trail loop opens noon today

The new underground John Hart powerhouse became operational in 2018. The new facility is more reliable and can generate almost 10 per cent more electricity than the old facility, powering about 80,000 homes.

RELATED: Fourth generator shut down at Campbell River generating station

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