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'An honour': Historic totem pole restored and displayed in Victoria's Thunderbird Park

The recently restored totem pole is pictured in Thunderbird Park: Dec. 20, 2021 (CTV News) The recently restored totem pole is pictured in Thunderbird Park: Dec. 20, 2021 (CTV News)
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A historic totem pole that has greeted visitors to the Royal BC Museum for decades has been moved to a new location now that a three-month restoration project has completed.

First Nations master carver Richard Hunt watched as his freshly restored totem pole took its rightful place next to Mungo Martin House in Thunderbird Park adjacent to the museum.

The Totem pole was brought down in September for conservation treatment by Hunt himself, including repainting, carving and water repellency treatment.

Originally carved in 1979 by Hunt, the totem pole was the first he carved independently without the help from his father, master carver Henry Hunt.

The 70-year-old carver acknowledges he did get some guidance from his uncle, Tommy Hunt, on his first major solo endeavor, something he never got to tell his father.

"When the museum opened up, it was right in the front, then they redesigned the museum so they had to take it down, then they put it in a little courtyard – which I thought was a beautiful little spot because it was quiet," Hunt said Monday.

"Then they decided after it was painted to move it into Thunderbird Park with my father's and Mungo’s work, and other people like that, so I looked at it as an honour to have it here."

The restored carving features a thunderbird on top, a bear holding a man at the base, and symbolic family representations throughout.

Hunt began to carve at the age of 13, following in his father’s footsteps, and progressed to design major projects and win awards for his art, philanthropy and leadership.

He held the position of master carver at the Royal BC Museum carving program in Thunderbird Park from 1974 to 1984, succeeding his father, Henry Hunt, and family friend, Mungo Martin, in the role.

His carvings, paintings and other works are renowned worldwide, with designs being licensed three times by the Royal Canadian Mint for legal tender.

He is also a recipient of both the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria.

Currently, his carving, "Killer Whale," is on display in the Royal BC Museum’s feature exhibit, Orcas: Our Shared Future.

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