Doug Armstrong is enamoured of West Coast native art and has a good collection of his own – mostly masks, some paintings, and a bentwood box natives used to store food and clothing.
Armstrong is also an admirer of native totem poles and the author of Giants of the Pacific Northwest – The Hunt Family Totem Poles.
When Armstrong and his wife, Mary, travelled to the Totem Pole Resort out of curiosity in 1987 to see the resort’s namesake, it was love at first sight.
A seasonal resident of the resort, Armstrong describes the totem pole as one of the top five to 10 totem poles in the world.
“My book came as a result of the presence of the pole at Totem Pole Resort since 1973,” says Armstrong.
Allan Dray purchased the property known as the Nightingale Resort in 1971, commissioned the pole in 1972 and changed the name to the Totem Pole Resort and Marina.
Before he died in 2008, Dray thanked the Armstrongs for their research capabilities, exceptional know-how and tenacity to get the story down on paper.
In his book, Armstrong describes the Hunt clan as a remarkable family of First Nations artists and says the North Shuswap one is the best the family produced.
The chief carver was Henry Hunt, a member of the Kwagiulth Nation, who was assisted by Richard Hunt and apprentice John Livingston.
“The chap who established the Totem Resort went to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria to inquire about totem poles,” Armstrong says.
“The bewildered secretary sent him to the longhouse next door where Henry Hunt was working.
“He was a Texan and he pulled a chequebook from his pocket and said ‘how much?’ As a result, we have one of the best totem poles in the world.”
The top of the pole is a raven, followed by a brown man, a seagull, a bear, a killer whale, a hok hok bird, a wild woman and a two-headed serpent.”
Armstrong says the adz marks are very clear, a confirmation that the totem pole was completely hand-crafted.
“It is interesting to note that it is restored every 15 to 18 years,” says Armstrong, noting the net profit from the sale of the book will go to restoration of the totem pole at the resort.
“It’s a wonderful piece of history for the Shuswap.”
Accompanied by beautiful photos, the fascinating book contains the history of the Hunt family, a brief history of totem poles and a detailed account of the Totem Pole Resort totem and how it was built and installed.
Giants of the Pacific Northwest is available at Hidden Gems Bookstore on Alexander Street in Salmon Arm.