Carvers Honouring Pole (RBCM 20133)

Thunderbird Park
Johnathan Henderson
Sean Whonnock
Honouring Pole in Thunderbird Park

Honouring Pole in Thunderbird Park

Crane truck positioning the pole in Thunderbird Park.

The pole was erected in Thunderbird Park in October, 1999. P1010028.

People working on the carved and freshly painted pole in the carving studio.

The finished pole, which was made in the Carving Studio as a public program of the Royal BC Museum, is prepared for moving to its Thunderbird Park site. P1010002.

Sean Whonnock with his back towards the camera standing beside the pole.

At the pole raising, Sean Whonnock, wearing a ceremonial tunic appliqued with a whale crest, stands beside the Grey Whale crest on the pole. 1010024c.

This pole, created from a 533-year-old log from Quatsino Sound, is the first to be raised on the Royal BC Museum grounds in 40 years. It honours the family history of the carvers, brothers Johnathan Henderson and Sean Whonnock, and is dedicated to the Lekwungen people, also known as the Songhees and Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) Nations, on whose ancestral lands the Royal BC Museum is located. The dedication points out that, although it is located on Lekwungen traditional territory, which is Coast Salish, Thunderbird Park was created primarily by Kwakwaka’wakw carvers and there is no obvious Coast Salish presence in the Park.

The images on the pole combine lineage crests with individualized references to family members, an unusual combination emphasizing the continuation of identities from past to present and celebrating those who have carried cultural traditions forward. Thunderbird at the top is a crest of the Whonnock family but the face in its body is a portrait of Gideon Whonnock, Sean’s grandfather. Similarly, the Grey Whale, decorated with white circles representing barnacles, which typically accumulate on the whale, is a Henderson family crest, and the upside-down head in the tail represents the late Sam Henderson, Johnathan’s grandfather. The face in the blowhole portrays one of the carvers, Johnathan Henderson.

The carvers called the pole the Honouring pole. Its raising was celebrated by ceremonies at the pole and inside Wawadiťła, the Mungo Martin House in Thunderbird Park. In 2004 Sean Whonnock carved and raised a similar pole in Alert Bay to honour his family.

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