Replica of historic totem pole presented to Navy
A little more than 50 years ago, Hosaqami—a two-tonne, 7.62-metre tall totem pole—was crafted as a gift to the Royal Navy from the Royal Canadian Navy. For 50 years, the RN trained RCN gunnery personnel at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth, England. Hosaqami was a gift to recognize the relationship between the two navies, and to celebrate the RCN’s 50th birthday.
“Hosaqami” means “he who owns this pole is a man of integrity in his society” in the Kwakiuti language.
Peguis First Nation member Lieutenant-Commander (Ret) Bill Shead, who served in the Navy from 1956 to 1978, was at the presentation of Hosaqami to Excellent. He recalls the presentation being rather informal, “which was to add so much fun to the occasion and to underscore the friendly and professional relationship between the two navies.” During a potlatch, they passed a peace pipe, held wrestling matches and danced.
Previously on display on Whale Island, Hosaqami was severely damaged by a major storm, and was sent back to Canada to see if it could be restored. It was found to be costly to restore it, and Tony Hunt, grandson of its maker, Chief Mungo Martin, recommended that it return to the earth, as is tradition. “When a totem pole has completed its life it is returned to a place of honour,” said LCdr Shead.
Excellent has since been decommissioned, and Hosaqami is returning to its natural state in the earth, decaying behind the Chiefs and Petty Officers’ Mess at CFB Esquimalt.
Recently, LCdr Shead presented a .61-metre replica of the totem pole to CFB Halifax as a memorial piece to be displayed. For his gift, LCdr Shead was presented with a 100th anniversary pin and a Canadian Naval Centennial (CNC) coin at the Maritime Command Museum, where the replica will be displayed for now.
“The presentation of Hosaqami in 1960 was made in celebration of the Royal Canadian Navy’s 50th anniversary, and the presentation of this replica has special meaning now that it is our centennial year,” said Captain(N) Craig Walkington, MARLANT Coordinator for CNC. “We will ensure the replica totem pole is displayed appropriately.”