The Williams Lake Indian Band says it will keep the dialogue open on a gifted totem pole that appears to no longer be destined for Boitanio Park.
The totem pole carved by master carver Skip Saunders from the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Cool for Tl’etinqox was gifted to the City of Williams Lake in 2016.
“We received a letter Monday from Chief Joe Alphonse, and saw that he had made statements in the media with respect to his community’s proposal to erect a totem pole at Boitanio Park,” Williams Lake Indian Band Chief, Willie Sellars said in a news release.
“I want to preface my statements by saying we met repeatedly with Chief Alphonse with a view to trying to find a workable solution. The City of Williams Lake is squarely within the traditional territory of the Williams Lake Indian Band, and traditional protocol dictates that First Nations would have dialogue and conclude mutually acceptable arrangements before one community establishes what is intended to be a cultural marker in the territory of another. Unfortunately, in this instance that did not occur. “
Sellars told MyCaribooNow that WLIB envisioned the discussions to continue on.
“We were initially looking at doing a spring ceremony,” he said.
“Whether the totem pole was in Boitanio Park that wasn’t supported in our community, but over at Kwaleen or maybe at an alternative site that we could look at and work towards with the City of Williams Lake. But the spring didn’t work with Chief Alphonse’s timetable and that’s definitely unfortunate, and it’s definitely unfortunate to see the press release that went out Monday.”
Sellars adds the WLIB is supportive of First Nation Arts and culture within the City of Williams Lake.
“We’re advocates of that,” he said.
“We’ve actually just commissioned a piece of artwork that we’re going to be putting up at our brand new downtown office at the FYI building. That will be going up when we finish the renovations later on this spring, early summer so we’re excited.”
In 2018, Williams Lake Indian Band concluded litigation in the Supreme Court of Canada which established that the descendants of the current Williams Lake Indian Band membership were wrongfully displaced from the traditional lands within what is now the City of Williams Lake.
“When we start talking about pointing other First Nations culture art, we want to be a part of that discussion,” Sellars said.
“Chief Joe and his community are more than welcome to give me a call and we can go for coffee and have a discussion and figure out an alternative way to put this piece of artwork up. It’s a Nuxalk’mc piece of art, and I think it would be very vital to that process to include them in that ceremony as well.”
“But again this is a discussion that needs to be had between the first nations, with our Elders, and our community before moving forward and putting something that is as significant as a totem pole within the City of Williams Lake.”