Pole Carving

Crossing Cultures and Healing

The Royal BC Museum is launching a new on-site pole carving program, in partnership with the BC Ministry of Health and sponsored by TimberWest. Artists Tom and Perry LaFortune, brothers and members of the Tsawout First Nation, will be preparing the pole offsite in coming weeks, roughing out its general shape before bringing the pole to Royal BC Museum’s outdoor upper plaza in mid-July. Perry and Tom, along with museum staff, will be available to answer your questions and talk about their work. A schedule of carving times will be added here in the coming weeks. Together with the LaFortune brothers, the Ministry of Health selected the pole’s theme, “Crossing Cultures and Healing”. The Ministry will raise the pole this October at its Victoria headquarters as a reflection and reminder of the Ministry’s belief in supporting reconciliation. The roughly seven metre (25 feet) pole was donated by TimberWest and selected by the LaFortune brothers, who were nominated as the program master carvers during early consultations with the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, on whose traditional territory the museum sits.

Artist Bios

Tom La Fortune
Tsawout Nation

[KAtēkwhaǂhet] Tom is a member of the Tsawout First Nation who has connections to several families whose ancestral lands are in the southern part of what is now known as Vancouver Island. He finished his first carving when he was just 11 years old. In the years that followed, Tom has carved masks, rattles, paddles, dishes, talking sticks, single figures and countless poles. He has also made and painted drums. Today his work is distinguished by its fluidity and refined use of colour. Tom’s work can be found in collections all over the world. Some of his most notable works include the Harvest Time and Owl Spirit poles completed for Duncan’s City of Totems project, the totem pole commissioned by CBC and featured on television coverage of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, a single owl figure overlooking the Ross Fountain at the world-famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, S’ael, a twenty-five foot pole completed as part of Royal Roads University’s 75 years of changing lives celebrations, and a Salish art for the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site he has recently completed. All have special meaning.

Tom lives with his partner Doreen in the Victoria area, close to his two sons and daughter and a large extended family.

Perry LaFortune
​Tsawout Nation

Perry LaFortune has received most of his training from his brother, Francis Horne, and has been influenced by his Elders. He has been carving since 1976, and has apprenticed under Francis Horne on several major projects, including assisting in carving four poles for the City of Totems in Duncan. Perry also had the privilege of working with the late Coast Salish master carver, Simon Charlie. In 1988, Perry was invited to go to Singapore to demonstrate carving with Francis Horne, celebrating the inaugural flight of Singapore Airlines to Vancouver. In 2007, Perry acted as Head Carver for the Tsawout Community Canoe Carving Project on Vancouver Island. This project was supported by the Tsawout Nation and the Government of BC, and was designed to encourage the local community to contribute in the carving and creation of a traditional Salish canoe. In 2008, Perry carved a talking stick that was presented to former USA President, Bill Clinton, at the CISION Corporate Responsibility Conference that was held in Vancouver. Perry works in a contemporary Coast Salish style, and many of his pieces strive to emphasize the natural properties of the wood that he uses.