By Jackie Humber
Chief Henry Robertson (Ga-ba-baawk) from Kemano/Kitlope is an acclaimed carver and artist.
Twelve years ago, he honoured Sir William MacDonald Elementary School with a 12-foot wide cedar eagle carving that he had created. The carving was set above the main entranceway of the school. This past August a movie crew requested the removal of the eagle carving for a movie shoot. Unaware that this was a dishonour to Chief Robertson, school Principal, Brian Anderson allowed the carving to be removed. Since being informed of his error, Anderson arranged a ceremony on Dec.1st to re-place the eagle carving back above the entranceway and to apologize to Chief Robertson. The student body along with local MLA Libby Davies, members from the Squamish Nation and members of neighboring nations joined together outside the school to witness the carving being hoisted back into place. Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation addressed the crowd in his language and then in English. “When Ga-ba-baawk (Chief Robertson) did this beautiful carving of this eagle it was blessed by my late uncle, Simon Baker, 12 years ago who did the same work we are doing today. Honouring the beautiful spirit of this eagle that will help protect our children from any harm,” said Chief Campbell. He then spoke to the crowd about the significance of the eagle. “The eagles are very special as they gather along our rivers every year, this time of year. There are thousands of them up and down our rivers. So today we here to celebrate,” said Chief Campbell. Chief Robertson also believes in honouring the eagle because it showed the people that the salmon is good to eat.
As the eagle carving was beginning to be hoisted back into place, everyone looked skyward as an eagle flew gently by. Chief Robertson had earlier looked up as if waiting for the eagle to appear. “ It gave me a good feeling when the eagle flew by,” he said. “He came by to say hello”. As the eagle carving was secured atop of the school entranceway, Vern Bolton of the Kitlope Nation spoke about the protocol of the young native children. The crowd became silent as his voice carried across the gathering. “ When someone is speaking you must listen. Your responsibility my dear little ones is to listen,” said Bolton. The rest of the celebration continued inside the school auditorium with more drumming, dancing and singing. A feast of salmon, rice and sandwiches was served to all. Principal Anderson addressed Chief Robertson and all in attendance. “ In summer I made a mistake. I told a movie crew they could take the eagle carving down. Then Derek Wilson and Vern helped me learn what that meant. Today I am able to apologize for this insult I have caused. This is my opportunity to apologize to Ga-ba-baawk. I’ve learnt so much about what is the right way. I want to say thank you to Chief Robertson and his family. So thank you very much,” said Anderson.
The celebration concluded with more drumming, dancing and singing. Chief Robertson said he was pleased that the carving had been put back in place. “ It shouldn’t have been taken down in the first place,” he answered.