Artist Statement for new Bill Henderson Pole

In front of the Museum is a pole carved by well-known Kwakwaka’wakw carver, Sam Henderson.  Originally raised in front of Campbell River’s Centennial Building this Kwakiutl Bear Pole was part of the 1967 centennial project “Route of the Totems”.   Unfortunately, time and elements have weakened the Pole, which has been extensively restored in the past, and it has reached the point of being beyond repair.

Master carver Bill Henderson, the son of Sam and current head carver at the Campbell River Indian Band’s carving shed, has been identified as the lead carver for a replacement pole.  This new pole will be a testament of the continuing carving traditions in our community.

The Museum plans to take this opportunity to document and film the carving process.  This will be a valuable resource for the Museum, as well as for the community.  It will record not only the details of the carving of this pole, but also the culture of the carving shed and the methods used to mentor young carvers.  It will allow us to see how the knowledge of carving is passed from one generation to the other.

Recently, The BC Arts Council and the Government of British Columbia have awarded the Museum a grant to assist with the commissioning of this 22-foot pole.  We are thankful for the help to move this project forward, and hope to have the pole started in the near future!

 Artist Statement

Master Kwa Kwaka’wakw Carver Bill Henderson

 I worked alongside my Dad, Sam Henderson in his carving shed here in Campbell River from a very young age.  I watched him work, listened to him talk about our history, his life and where we came from.  Not only did I learn to carve under his guidance but I learned my culture and the importance of giving back to my community.  Today I am the Head Carver at the Campbell River carving shed which opened in 2000.  Like my Dad, who passed several years ago, I teach, guide and mentor the next generation of carvers.

I remember working with my Dad, in the 1960’s on the Bear Pole which now is located in front of the Museum.  The crests depicted came from my mother’s side of the family.  Under my Dad’s direction I worked on the face on the front of the top Thunderbird figure.  This pole, which was part of the Route of the Totems commemorative project in 1967, has been part of the community for a long time.  Over the years it has decayed and has been repaired, by myself on more than one occasion.  It is now at a point that it can no longer be repaired and will soon be taken down.

This pole will be the inspiration for a new pole that I will carve, as a commission for the Museum.  As Head Carver I will guide and direct my nephews and other carvers as we work on this pole.  I am proud of my nephews and it will be a time to learn and to strengthen our ties to our culture.  Once completed the pole will be located in front of the Museum, which is a very prominent location.  The new pole will be a reminder for many years to come of our culture and the strong legacy left by my Dad and myself as I followed in his footsteps.

As we work on the pole I am happy to welcome the Museum staff to the carving shed to film the process and interview those who will work alongside me.  I understand that this footage will be included in a short documentary that the Museum will produce on the making of the pole.  This film will add to public’s understanding of the pole and will serve as a record of it’s creation.

I look forward to working on this pole and with the Museum on this project.

Thank-you,

Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson – Master Carver

Bill Henderson of the Wei Wai Kum Band of Campbell River is one of the most successful master carvers of his time,  and has established an international reputation with collectors of First Nation’s art.  He has been commissioned to carve several traditional totem poles to commemorate important Kwakwaka’wakw people and events, and creates dancing masks, paddles, bowls and plaques.  In 1983, he presented the town of Ishikari, Japan with one of his totem poles as a gift from its sister city, Campbell River.

Henderson began carving with his father, the late Sam Henderson, when he was seven years old.  Sam Henderson was not only an eminent Nak’waxda’xw carver, but also a devoted protector of ancient cultural traditions.  May Quocksistala Henderson,  Bill’s mother, was a high ranking woman of the Campbell River Band.  He also credits the great Kwakwaka’wakw master carvers Mungo Martin and Henry Hunt as major influences on his own work.  He distinctively carries on the Henderson legacy and passes on his knowledge and skills graciously to many of his nephews.

Henderson says that “the woods and waters of the [Kwakwaka’wakw] homeland are rich in animals and I have worked to capture the natural and supernatural figures in many of my masks”.  Pictured here is his Owl Mask, and the vibrant colours and strong lines speak clearly of Henderson’s skill and interpretation.

The Shop at the Campbell River Museum specializes in First Nations Art and carvings like the work of Bill Henderson.  Come in for a visit!

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca