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Carving into the future

Artist Raymond Natraoro creates new totem pole
Master carver Ray Natraoro works on a welcome figure for the new Coastal Ford dealership on Jan. 31.

Almost everywhere you look in the Sea to Sky Corridor, the work of artist Raymond Natraoro can be found.

The North Vancouver resident created the entrance to Howe Sound Secondary School and the BC Hydro piece by the train tracks, and he has carved out several designs in Whistler and the Callaghan Valley.

And now another landmark piece will be added to Squamish.

For the past few months, Natraoro has been creating a totem pole to be erected outside the new Coastal Ford Squamish on Commercial Place and Queens Way. He was putting the final touches on the piece on Saturday, when he explained in an interview that carving has been a lifelong passion.

“I’ve been carving since I was five years old,” he said, in between carving out grooves in the pole. “I come from a long line of carvers. When I was a young boy I saw my great-grandfather carve, my grandfather carved and I’ve had uncles who carve too. My family has been artists for multiple generations.”

Natraoro apprenticed under Squamish’s Rick Harry for four years starting in 1994 and then went on his own. He creates totem poles, house posts, canoes, masks and other items.

“Anything out of wood, I can make it,” he said.

His unique background also inspires him, as his mother is from the Squamish Nation and his father is from the Northern Tutchonee tribe in the Yukon Territory. He said it’s important to keep traditional art alive.

“These pieces tell stories and can last for hundreds of years,” he said. “Multiple generations will see this pole standing and learn the story of what it represents.”

The pole will eventually be painted and it will stand outside the entrance to Coastal Ford Squamish.

“It will represent and greet people when they come in,” he said. “It’s a human welcome figure and showcases a human wrapped in a blanket. The blanket symbolizes wealth. Noble people had blankets and it shows that this person had responsibility.”

He hopes the pole will stand for many years and he’s proud to keep his culture alive artistically.

“I believe that expanding working relationships through public artworks, galleries and private clientele enables me to share our culture and traditions by creating a lasting legacy for future generations,” he said.

The pole is expected to go up in the next few weeks. 

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