Art Steritt in his totem pole shop. He has built 30-40 poles all over Canada and is currently working on 4 for the Metlakatla Senior Centre.(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

VIDEO: Prince Rupert’s Art Sterritt is helping seniors feel at home

Local Indigenous artist working on totem poles for Metlakatla Senior Centre, representing four clans

 

Art Sterritt is chipping away at a 10-feet-long project for the Metlakatla Senior Centre, otherwise known as the Senior’s Village.

Sterritt, a local Tsimshian Indigenous artist and carver in Prince Rupert, was commissioned by the Metlakatla Development Corporation to create four totem poles to represent the cultural heritage of their respective Indigenous clans.

READ MORE: Heart of Our City: Carving out an enduring legacy

“The seniors centre is a very important project and so is mine. It’s all about making sure that the people that retire in this village, are all represented by the totems that are going to be there. So that they’ll feel like they’re at home,” said Sterritt. “Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Lax Kw’alaams, or Hartley Bay – any of the Tsimshian – they all belong to one of four clans: the Eagle, the Raven, the Black Fish (killer whale) and the Wolf, which is what I’m working on.”

Sterritt has totem poles all over North America ranging from Vancouver to New York. He began his work in 1970 and has worked on 30 to 40 projects in his 50 year career.

The monumental poles are made from red cedar, which Sterritt said 99 per cent of totems are made of.

Without cedar the culture just wouldn’t be what it is,” he said. “It’s what made them so strong. You can’t build the kind of structures that the Haida, Tsimshian, and other coastal nations could without it.”

READ MORE: Red cedars dying in northwestern B.C. from drought

Each totem pole for the Senior’s Village will take a month per pole to make and will be unveiled by the end of August.

“We’ll just keep on carving and making the polls little bit more intricate by day.”


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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