Landmark Victoria totem to be refurbished at B.C. legislature

The totem pole was first carved in 1990 by master carver Cicero August and his two sons. The repairs are now being led by Doug August, Cicero's son: (CTV News)

The Knowledge Totem on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature will be refurbished over the next 10 weeks in a project that is described as a labour of love.

The totem pole was removed from its stand Monday by a crane so the work could begin. The refurbishing work will be carried out by Doug August, son of master carver Cicero August, who completed the pole in 1990 with the help of Doug and his brother Darrel in commemoration of the Commonwealth Games.

August, a member of the Cowichan Tribes, will work alongside his son and daughter-in-law. They plan to bring in students from the Songhees Nation to share in the work and pass on their knowledge.

It was work August was hoping to share with his father.

"COVID-19 took my dad two and a half months ago," said August, choking back tears.

"I told him we’re restarting his totem pole and he said, 'Son, I want to sit there and watch you all day.' But I know he’s with me spiritually," he said.

August says the work will be fairly involved; it requires stripping the paint, removing core-rot and replacing it with good wood, sealing cracks, and repainting. All of the work will also be done in an environmentally friendly way.

"Once we stand it up again it will be looking like a new totem pole," said August.

August says the pole had received some restoration work 17 years ago while it stood in place.

"We don’t let our totem poles die, we keep them alive," said August.

"What we’re doing is keeping this totem pole strong and alive, representing the Coast Salish people."

A plaque at the base of the pole says the totem’s figures, the loon, the fisher, the bone game player and the frog represent lessons from the past and hope for the future.

While the work is taking place, the pole will fenced off and covered by a tent.