They have inhabited this area for at least two thousand years*, and their middens and village sites are found up and down the coast. (*Their website says
The Kla ah men people have inhabited this region since the beginning of time.which I think may be a slight exaggeration.)
|Sliammon townsite, from its wide beach. The Catholic church in front was rebuilt after it burned down in 1918. The homes are much more recent.|
Their history since the coming of the white men has been, like that of so many other aboriginal peoples, a mournful recital of losses, from the first epidemics of European diseases, to the expulsion from many of their home sites, to the persistent and systematic attempts to eradicate their culture and language, leaving them at present with a population of about eight hundred. Only in the last few decades has there been a resurgence of hope and activity; they are now permitted to keep their children at home, to have local schools, to celebrate their cultural heritage, and to direct their own lives as adult Canadians.
In 2009, the "Sliammon First Nation raised a 30 foot totem pole to honor their family and friends that have passed on before us." (Sliammon Treaty Society) As far as I can tell, that would be this one:
|It faces out to sea, from just above the high tide line.|
The Coast Salish peoples were not major totem pole builders, and I'm not familiar with their symbolism. From bottom to top, I see an unidentified head, two killer whales, a winged turtle with suns carved into the wings, and a majestic, tragic face.
|Detail: crying turtle with outstretched wings.|
|Is he carrying a turtle, or a fish?|
|Grief and endurance personified.|