Lake Cowichan community outraged by totem vandalism

Senseless vandalism to Lake Cowichan’s totem pole on Canada Day caused a firestorm of outrage from local residents but by Thursday morning carvers Chuuchkamalthnii (Ron Hamilton) and his son, Aa-aatsiknuk (Ray Sim) were back at work under the gazebo at Ts’uubaa asatx Town Square.

"It was very upsetting," Chuuchkamalthnii said as he carved in the early morning quiet. "We removed it right away."

The beautiful pole, which is taking shape out in the open so visitors can watch its progress and learn the stories of the creatures being depicted, will be erected in the centre of the square over the Labour Day weekend.

According to Lake Cowichan RCMP, a report came in on July 1 at 1:45 p.m. that someone had vandalized the carved pole.

"We heard about it from Aaron Hamilton, the operations manager for the Lake Cowichan First Nation," Sgt. Wes Olsen said.

"He reported that an unknown person or persons had used a pencil and drew or wrote on the totem pole being carved at the park by the Cowichan Lake library.

"Apparently what had happened was that the carver had left the area for a break and when he returned he noted it. Well, you have to wonder where some people’s heads are when they do things like that," Olsen said.

"You can’t teach common sense. It sounds like a kid. Basically the police do have a file open on it and we’re actively investigating for an offence which would be construed as mischief under $5,000."

Anybody who has information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment at 250-749-6668.

"We’d be interested in speaking with any witnesses or in being able to track down the culprit or culprits who did it. We presume the carver took a lunch break.

"Luckily the damage was in pencil and could be taken care of fairly easily but the band is doing this openly so the public can be able to sit and observe and see how the work gets done. For somebody to do something so childish and malicious is unfortunate," the sergeant said.

The reaction from the community was immediate when Melanie Livingstone (Hamilton) posted about it on the Cowichan Lake Communities Grapevine Facebook page, calling it "total disrespect to our elders/carvers that are dedicating their time to this project!!!" particularly because they have been working on steadily during the brutal heat wave that has been hitting the area.

Others agreed, with many sharing emotions like "mortified" and "appalled" at the attack on a project that is the subject of so much local pride.