Pole (RBCM 1863)

Pencil drawing and dimensions of the Kwakwaka'wakw pole by John Smyly.

The pole drawn by museum technician John Smyly, who called it a heraldic pole.

Four men standing outside on a wooden floor wearing regalia.

Charles Nowell and Bob Harris (in centre) with Dr Atlin (left) and Jasper Turner at a cultural performance at the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904. D-01503

Group of people posing for photograph on the beach with a canoe in the left foreground.

Chief Wakash and the villagers of Dzawadi pose with the officers of HMS Boxer and Dr Israel Wood Powell, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, during a visit to Knight Inlet in 1873. Richard Maynard photograph. G-05015, also PN 2291-B.

Carved sometime after 1875, this pole once stood in the village of Dzawadi at the head of Knight Inlet on the British Columbia mainland. The figures (from the top) are a chief holding aloft a Copper (a distinctively shaped copper shield that is a symbol of wealth), Raven, and a family ancestor. Charles F. Newcombe acquired the pole for the provincial museum from Chief Harris in 1913 or 1914.

That the pole does not appear in photographs of Dzawadi is perhaps explained by an entry in Charles Newcombe’s notebook dated Saturday, April 13, at a Tenaqtoq (Da’naxda’xw) village site that may refer to this pole: “On the bank, tangled in driftwood, we found the high totem pole photographed by Maynard with [Indian Agent] Dr Powell and [boat] Man O’War’s crew . . . . Agreed with Harris to buy pole in drift at $15.00. He to help extricate and tow it down to Gasoline [boat?] at high tide. Got it out after 2 ½ hours, 3 men working – C. Nowell, the owner of Gasoline and Harris.” Charlie Nowell, a chief from Alert Bay, sometimes acted as a cultural advisor to Newcombe. He and Bob Harris joined an Indigenous delegation that accompanied Newcombe to the 1903 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, to demonstrate arts and cultures of the Northwest Coast.

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