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Squamish Nation totem pole coming to cultural centre



The Squamish Nation recently had a small part of their heritage returned to them, in the form of a forgotten totem pole.

The totem pole is about 70 years old and was created by Chief Mathias Joe, a hereditary Squamish chief who died in 1967. The 6.4-metre red cedar pole was discovered - still standing but completely hidden by brush and trees - on a British Properties lot that was sold to new owners about 18 months ago. The pole has since been donated back to the Squamish Nation.

It has been sent to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC), where it will be partially restored by Chief Mathias Joe's grandchildren and used as an exhibition piece and aid for carvers in training. This will be the oldest totem in the SLCC's collection.

Allison Burns - also known by her ancestral name, Cheximiya - is a member of the Squamish Nation and ambassador at the SLCC. She said that the returned totem pole is significant because it "shows that all our traditional land markings and aboriginal presence is not completely lost in our traditional territory due to colonization."

It will also help today's artists "pay homage to the ones that passed, and take the old techniques and bring them forward to the present art pieces that are created so they are not lost or forgotten," she added.

Only minimal restoration work will be done on the original piece, due to its age and weathered state. But the SLCC plans to make a replica of the piece.

The totem pole, which features the design of a bear and thunderbird, will be put on display in November as part of the centre's Cultural Journey exhibition. A formal blessing ceremony will be held early next year.

"Since the pole has been 'sleeping' for such a long time the blessing ceremony will awaken the spirit within," Burns explained.


Feel the rhythms of Cuba


Aspiring dancers and fans of the hit TV show, So You Think You Can Dance Canada, will be making a beeline to The Core on Friday afternoon, as the fitness centre plays host to another round of Areito dance workshops led by Arassay Reyes, one of the finalists from the first season of the popular show.

Reyes grew up in Cuba and studied dance at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, training in Latin, contemporary, traditional African and Afro-Cuban styles. After graduation, she won a position with the dance company Compania Contemporanea Nacional de Cuba, and went on to perform throughout the country until moving to Canada in 2007. After just three months here, Reyes won a spot on the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, ultimately landing in the top-eight of the competition and joining the show's top-10 tour across Canada. She is currently teaching and performing in schools and dance studios throughout Vancouver, but will be making the trip to Whistler on Friday, Oct. 29 to lead a series of workshops that include reggaeton, salsa Cuban styling and Cuban rueda de casino.

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