The Whalers' Pole

About this object


Pole commissioned by the museum, 1980-1982. The log used for the carving was from a village called Oo-ees, on Nitinat Lake. It was donated by the Nitinat people for the project. In 1984 the pole was installed outdoors, on the side of UBC's Kenny Building (in recognition of Dr. Douglas T. Kenny). In 2018 it was moved to MOA for drying; on Apr 19, 2024 it was raised inside the museum's great hall. The wooden harpoon tip had rotted, so it was replaced in 2024 with a new red wooden tip, carved and painted by Thompson's grandson, Ernie George, Jr.

Iconographic meaning

The artist said the pole was meant to represent the whaling tradition of the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the west coast.

Physical description

Tall pole with carved and painted figures. Figures from top to bottom are: the harpooner, with a whale's dorsal fin in each hand; the second-ranked man in the whaling crew, who holds a harpoon; the shaman, who wears a frontlet and holds a rattle and a wand (and on his tongue is painted the head of a lightning serpent); Puk-ubs (whaler returned from drowing); and a grey whale, held up by Puk-ubs. The eyes and teeth on the shaman's face are in bronze. (The tip of the harpoon was replaced in 2024.)