Carving Out Tradition in Canada - Page 2

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Did You Know...

Why people carve totem Poles?
Totem poles are often dedicated to a person or deceased relative, or raised in front of an important building. The mythical animals that peer down from totem poles carry immense meaning; they often represent a family's crest (like Thunderbird, Bear, or Killer Whale) to which a family attributes its ancestry, or are emblems of secret societies.
When to throw a potlatch?
Traditionally, chiefs and nobles hosted a potlatch, or celebration, to gain honor and to commemorate significant events like marriages, inaugurations, initiations into secret societies, or death. The hallmark of the traditional potlatch was a complex system of gift-giving; the more gifts the host bestowed on his guests, the more honor he gained for his family (and the more other hosts were expected to give away later.) Modern potlatches rely less on gift-giving; they focus more on theatrical masked dances, speeches, and songs with mythological themes. Totem poles are often carved for potlatches.

Practically Speaking
All villages listed are accessible by car via paved road and public ferry from Vancouver, if you are prepared to do some lengthy driving. The trip from Vancouver to Campbell River is about three hours (ferry and driving included), and it's another two hours from there to Port McNeill, and two- and-a-half to reach Port Hardy. Alert Bay is a 40-minute ferry ride from Port McNeill.

Cape Scott Park is the one locale accessed via gravel road (one-and-a-half hour's worth, in fact); from the end of the dirt road, it's a 40-minute hike to the nearest (awe-inspiring) pitch of sand, and an eight hour hike to the Park's more remote seascapes. Flying is a time-saving way to penetrate North Vancouver Island: daily flights run from Vancouver to Port Hardy, and cost about $170 CAD ($150 USD)

Whale-watching and sea-kayaking outfitters abound on North Vancouver Island. Find particularly good views of summering orca whales out of the tiny boardwalk town Telegraph Cove, just southeast of Port McNeill.

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