Charles Elliott Pole, University of Victoria

This is another pole carved by Charles Elliott of the Tsartlip First Nation – not long ago I featured a recently carved pole of his called Water Keeper. This pole has no name that I can find, but in fact there is almost no information about the pole available on-line. It is situated in the main quadrangle at U-Vic, across from the library and, appropriately, near to the Elliott Building. It was commissioned by the university in 1990 to mark the Learned Societies Conference held there that year. It is one of several poles and other first nations art prominently displayed around the university grounds. One post (showing a nice HDR photo of this pole) quotes from a university website no longer available that “Twenty-six feet high it tells an old family legend connected with the waterfront near the University.” That is pretty much all I can find out about the pole, it would be interesting to know more of the story behind it.

I am very taken with this pole – the woman on the front is a particularly powerful figure but the whole design holds together very well. I hope you enjoy seeing it too, with quite a lot of emphasis on details within camera range.

I have previously featured the public art of Charles Elliott – he did the decorative bronze plaques on the Oak Bay Songhees history cairns which featured in a series of early posts on this blog. I have not actively sought out his work, but seem to be continuously coming across it. He is clearly one of the most prolific local artists of any cultural background creating public art in Greater Victoria.

To view the gallery click on any of the thumbnails below, to navigate in the gallery use the arrows on the sides of the images, or on your keyboard, to return to this page hit escape.

This site can be found on my map of First Nations markers and Songhees geography in the Victoria area, at this link.

Canon EOS 5Dii, Canon 50/1.4 and Nikkor-N 24/2.8 lenses, ISO 100.



20 thoughts on “Charles Elliott Pole, University of Victoria

  1. Pingback: Celebrating Christ in All Seasons: Liturgical Bentwood Boxes by Charles W. Elliott | The Jesus Question

  2. Pingback: Doug Lafortune Welcome Figures, University of Victoria | burnt embers

    • !!! is right. Lots of them in this part of the world. Though in fact those are not “totems” on them but rather crests, heralidic figures, parts of hereditary stories that justify someone’s rank and so on.


  3. This is beautifully carved and painted and it seems to be holding up well. I’m glad you took the trouble to get some nice detail shots that show the craftsmanship. The surrounding area looks almost park-like.


    • Hi Ken – there is a ton of skill in this pole, and artistic vision too. It is now on my list of favourites, especially of the more modern interpretations of the old stories (sure wish I knew what this story was). U-Vic is very nicely laid out (in some areas anywya) and has some forested lands with the buildings nestled amongst or against them. They encroach into the very centre of campus against where this pole has been placed. Its a very nicely chosen setting.


  4. Gorgeous images, lovely details. By the way, in general I really appreciate that you make a point of recording material relating to first nations—it’s interesting and informative and records things that are often overlooked.


    • Thanks skadhu – that is how I started recording these – one of the Songhees history cairns showed up a block from my house and when I searched the internet I could find nothing at all about it. So, I plunged in. I find that this is often the case – UVic for instance has an art gallery and has a strong will to be open and accepting to First Nations on campus and in the community, and appear to be doing a good job as well. However, there is nothing useful on-line like an illustrated guide to First Nation’s art in their collections, or even one about these most obvious of installations. They are mentioned in a background-ish way in various webpages, but not featured. It is symptomatic of the general situation.


  5. Have you asked at the First People’s House at UVic.? Their whole building is in the Coast Salish style and they might know more about the various poles on the campus.


    • I did not try that – I was up there on a weekend. There are various U-Vic brochures for First Nations that are on -line and they all say pretty much the same things, and usually less. My experience with Charles Elliott research is that there is most likely a video where he talks about it. I have not found that yet.

      Maybe one of my readers will know more and can fill us in here in the comments section.


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