26 Sep 2013
A Stop! sign should be erected beside a new pole that stands at the entrance to the boardwalk along the seafront in Crofton. That’s because the pole tells an important old story from the Halalt First Nation people about the Thunderbird, Watchman, Sun and Moon.
There is some irony that the pole, carved by Harold Joe of Cowichan, stands beside the latest addition to the $1.8-million boardwalk. The newest walkways is named Catalyst Paper Way in honour of the huge pulp mill that has been affecting the lives of Halalt since it opened more than 50 years ago. Halalt coordinated all aspects of the new pole, from early discussions with elders to the final carving.
The Halalt First Nation logo shows Xu-lel-hw, the Watchman Le’lumuxhun holding the Salmon. There is a Thunderbird S-hwuhwas’us’ on each side of the Watchman, symbolizing day and night. Day and night is identified on the wings of the Thunderbirds by the Sun and the Moon.
The totem is called a memorial pole in honour of those who passed and those who are living. The top symbolizes Guidance to the Creator when going into the Spirit World. The middle symbolizes Heart, to all our surroundings on Mother Earth. And the bottom symbolizes grounding, to keep us connected to Mother Earth.
The story of the Thunderbird, Watchman, Sun and Moon was related by elders of Halalt (Xu-lel-hw) and has similarities to the Cowichan story of the Thunderbird and the Killer Whale. This is the story:
An elder of the community became a watchman for his community. He was getting worried for his people because there were very few Salmon coming up the river to spawn. He then began to sing (St’ilum) to the Great Creator for help. His St’ilum was a T’iwi’yulh (prayer). Since he had been standing for some time he sat down to rest his legs. Another elder, who was much older than him, came by to keep him company.
The older elder then turned to the younger elder and said to him “I heard you from where I was and it was a nice St’ilum T’iwi’ulh. I now call you Le’lumu’xhun, which is ‘watchman for the salmon’.” And so, he became the Watchman, night and day, with the help of the Thunderbird.
As for the Watchman’s T’iwi’yulh, it was answered, and not long after the Watchman notified his people that the salmon had come in. The older elder then asked the Watchman what Salmon had come in? The Watchman said “It’s Kw’a’luhw (Chum Salmon, or Dog Salmon).” This story is never ending as the Kw’a’luhw comes every year during the fall run.
The moral of the story for the community is that T’iwi’yulh (prayers) will always be answered through the heart of the community. Unity and, most of all, humbleness, are what counts to have prayers answered.