Historically the people of Haida-Gwai raised poles to mark special occasions in their history and daily lives such as the celebration of their heroes and mockery of their rivals.
The practice seemed to have died but was revived recently with a celebration that had several artistic significances. This is because the event symbolized the return to the traditional way of life and passage of pole carving techniques and other artistic features from one generation to the next. This paper takes a look at the artistic significance of the celebration.
BODY To start with one pole, the ‘legacy pole’ was raised at the shoreline of the Lyell Island in southern Haida-Gwai. This pole commemorated the anniversary of the two agreements that resulted in the establishment of the Gwai Haanas National park Reserve and the Haida Heritage Site (KIRKBY 2014). The pole was careful designed in a process that took over a year. This was as a result of the hard work required in designing the pole as it had to conform to the occasion i.e. the carves and images on the pole were to match the occasion thereby its artistic significance.
This preserve occupies an area of about 1,470km2 about 15% of Haida Gwai. No pole had been raised for the past 130 years because the tradition almost died out as a result of its condemnation by the western missionaries who accused it of helping in paganism and transmission of other diseases (Hitchcock 2014). This return to traditional practices of pole carving and raising was the artistic significance of the pole raising.
The pole was designed by a 33 year old artistic hero who used a 500 year old cedar from Port Clements. The pole had traditional symbols illustrating the history of the park, how the park is exceptional and what it meant to its founders. This was clearly an artistic work that required high dedication hence again the artistic significance of the pole raising ceremony.
The raising of the poles is a conservation of the people’s traditions. The new poles have a variety of relationships to the existing poles as well as the families that raise them. In the present day there are organizations that identify ‘intangible heritage’ and raise them to give voice to the otherwise voiceless people in the society. There are values that such organizations aim to keep and they are in line with the traditionsof pole rising. This is another artistic significance of the pole raising as it brought to life traditional carving techniques as well as their passage to the next generation.
CONCLUSION From the above it is beyond doubt that the recent poles raised had several artistic significances such as the revival of the traditional practices as well as passing the practices to the next generation and conservation of the environment. Traditional practices of carving were brought to life through the design of images that were to be on the poles to mark the special celebration. Clearly this received many different creative significances.