New totem pole welcomed at Victoria International Marina


A new totem pole symbolizing a welcome beacon is now outside the Victoria International Marina.

The concept began seven years ago for carver Tom Lafortune.

As a child, he spent time fishing in the harbour with his father, raking herring and watching orcas. Using experiences like that and stories told as a child, he created elements reminding him of elders from the Songhees First Nation, playful otters, and watchful eagles.

“To have a Salish pole along the inner harbour, you know this is our front yard. This is where it means the most,” said Lafortune.

One of the elements included an orca representing a story he was told about a grandmother telling her grandson to welcome people into the harbour.

At the raising ceremony on Wednesday, Lafortune dedicated the pole to his late father-in-law, John Rice, who spent his life organizing annual First Nations soccer tournaments.

“To finally get this stood up and to recognize him, welcoming people into Victoria for so many years, is just beyond words for me,” said Lafortune.

Before the ceremony, several First Nations members and members of the Victoria Police Department left from Ogden Point on canoes, paddling to the marina. The marina’s shore was recently revamped to allow canoes to land on the beach.

The marina’s CEO says seeing paddlers landing on the shore and having a totem pole standing is an honour to the ancestors of the land.

“There’s a story here to tell that I was being told by elders when I asked around, and I wanted to tell that story,” said Craig Norris.

“One of the ways to do that was to commission a piece of art…and honestly let the artist take over and let the tradition and the culture take over.”

This is just one of several carvings that Lafortune has across Vancouver Island, and he hopes this will serve as a welcome beacon to those out on the waters.

Oli Herrera

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