In 1967, the Columbian Newspaper enlisted the help of its readers to commission totem poles for four municipalities: Coquitlam, Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby.
New Westminster's pole, located at the Centennial Lodge in Queen's Park was originally carved by Kwakwaka’wakw artists, Lloyd Wadhams Sr. and Bob Whonnock. Painted in traditional Kwakwaka'wakw colours, the pole features three figures: a thunderbird at the top, an orca at the centre and a bear at the bottom.
Lloyd Wadhams Sr. was the head carver for the New Westminster and Burnaby totem poles. Bob Whonnock assisted Wadham's Sr. on the New Westminster pole and Geoffrey Hunt assisted him on the Burnaby pole. Coquitlam's pole was carved by Whonnock, Wadhams Sr. and John Edward (Ted) Neel. Surrey's pole was carved solely by Neel. The Coquitlam and the New Westminster poles were both carved in Queen's Park, Surrey's was carved in Guilford Shopping Centre and Burnaby's at Simpson-Sears. Thousands of visitors and passersby at each location could watch the progress of the poles as they were being created.
Residents from each municipality bought shares to help raise funds for the project. Three logging firms donated cedar logs and the paint colours were mixed to the requirements of the carvers by Terry Douglas. Once carved, each pole was submerged in a bath of preservative salts to slow down deterioration. Siting each pole and pouring concrete bases was the responsibility of the municipalities.
In 2023, New Westminster's twenty-four-foot pole was still stable but in need of repairs and resurfacing. Its weathered appearance was impacting the meaning of and appreciation for the totem pole. With guidance from the artist's niece, Cheryl Wadhams, the City was able to find an artist to perform this work and honour the cultural and artistic integrity of the original pole. Over the course of four and a half months, Lloyd Wadhams Jr, performed painstaking work to repair and restore his late father's pole to its original glory. On November 10, 2023, the restored totem pole was re-installed at the Centennial Lodge.
Lloyd Wadhams Jr.is a Kwakwaka’wakw artist from Alert Bay, Canada and known for his wood carvings and stunning gold and silver jewelry.
This is the third time Wadhams Jr. has repaired his father's poles. Previous projects include the centennial pole in Coquitlam and the Lakeshore Park Totem Pole in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo credit: Dakota Allison