Carver Herb Rice proudly watched as workers from the City of Duncan placed the long-standing totem pole “Transformation of Man” back into place last week on May 28.
Rice, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, was the key designer and carver of the totem pole which he originally worked on alongside brothers Glen and Andrew Edwards, from the Penelakut Nation, 31 years ago.
Rice was given the task by the City of Duncan to refurbish his Transformation of Man at his studio at Whippletree Junction after the totem pole spent decades standing at the corner of Government Street and E. J. Hughes Place.
The work took more than a month to complete.
Rice said that, over the years, cleaning crews unknowingly caused damage to the totem pole, which is made out of red cedar, by using power washers to clean it, which ended up creating pockets in the wood that tree pollen and fungus could get into and cause the wood to rot.
“I had to clean the whole surface, re-carve some of the lines and carve whole new wings before repainting the totem pole,” he said while a crane from Poland Crane & Hauling helped the work crew replace the totem pole at its site.
“Red cedar is a very soft wood and needs to be cared for properly. I’m really happy with the way it looks.”
Rice said he has worked with a number of the city’s totem pole projects from 2000 to 2007, but this is his first contract with the city in years.
“The city has since formed its totem pole subcommittee and the work around cleaning the poles in Duncan has really improved over time,” he said.
Carol Newington, chairwoman of the city’s totem pole subcommittee, said the city’s public works department regularly assesses all of Duncan’s more than 40 totem poles that have been put in place since the totem pole program began in 1989 and determines if and when any of them need to be refurbished.
She said the frequency of how often totem poles need to be cleaned and/or renovated usually depends on their location.
“Some, like the Transformation of Man, are located close to trees and, over the course of time, the leaves and pollen get into the wood and it begins to rot,” Newington said.
“The carving and maintenance of our totem poles are costly and we have no plans for new ones at this time, so we ensure that we look after the heritage of the poles that we currently have.”