A new carved pole, “Human Transforming into an Eagle”, designed by Qawam Redmond Andrews, has been temporarily installed at the Whistler Public Library and will move to a permanent location in 2022.
“Human Transforming into an Eagle” was unveiled on September 30, the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and has been subsequently gifted to the Whistler community.
The seven-foot tall cedar carved pole depicts a human transforming into an eagle, alongside storyteller frogs. Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) Ambassador and Cultural Leader Qawam Redmond Andrews designed the pole to represent the great future of Indigenous youth as storytellers and stewards of the land and the history of past and future generations.
“What a journey this project was. Eagles can fly closest to our loved ones in the sky, and the frogs are going with the eagle to go learn stories from the children that never made it home from the residential schools,” said Andrews. “The human is transforming into the eagle because my grandmother told me my dad would dance the Eagle Song when he was younger out in public to help get more food for the family. My dad has been to residential school so I wanted to honour his passion of carving with a piece to represent him in a way. This is just a step onto my staircase, and it’ll be followed until I find out where it goes.”
The carving project was made possible through a collaboration between the SLCC and the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) Festival, Events and Animation Program, with funding for the project coming from the Province of British Columbia’s Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT), also known as Hotel Tax.
The RMOW salvaged one of the cedar poles from the dismantled Longhouse in Rebagliati Park, and the pole was carved this July, August and September under the guidance of master carvers from the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation.
The project involved a three-tiered approach to mentoring across both nations. Qawam, a member of the Lil’wat Nation worked alongside his apprentice Courtney Williams of the Squamish Nation. Courtenay, a recent graduate of the SLCC’s Indigenous Youth Ambassador program, spent the summer immersed in the art of carving and gleaned lessons from both Qawam and master carvers from both Nations who would visit the project and provide guidance.
During the carving project, visitors were also invited to watch the carvers in action and ask them questions while they work. Carved, wooden poles serve many important purposes in Indigenous cultures, one being a family story pole that is also territory marker.
“We are honoured to have Qawam’s Human Eagle Transformation pole in the Whistler Public Library where it can be a reminder of the connection of this land with the First People,” said Whistler Councillor Cathy Jewett. “This pole helps us acknowledge the past and how we must each continue to find a path to reconciliation. It was inspiring to watch Qawam transform this piece of wood while mentoring another carver. Thank you for sharing your gift.”
“Human Transforming into an Eagle” is the latest addition to Whistler’s public art collection, which includes over 55 public and private art pieces showcased throughout the community. It will be housed temporarily at the Whistler Public Library over the winter and its permanent location will be announced in 2022.