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Opinion: A 1950s Sḵwx̱wú7mesh totem pole returns to my family

'With the family's help, we raised enough money to purchase the pole and have it returned home.'

What kind of ancestor do you want to be?

Recently hearing this question has made me reflect.

My great-grandfather, Ḵápelḵeh-+ Andrew Natrall (Andy), was born in 1895 and died in 1988.

Ḵápelḵeh-+ was a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and during his time, he was known as our living history book.

Ḵápelḵeh-+ was fluent in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (Squamish language) dialect and had excellent knowledge of our Sḵwx̱ú7mesh culture and our history. Ḵápelḵeh-+ was a great hunter into his early 80s. He was a Coast Salish artist.

Not only was he a master carver, but he was also a well-respected medicine man.

Ḵápelḵeh-+ was very familiar with nature’s medicines, and he had once said he had “never been sick, nor had an enemy.”

He was also a fisherman, a longshoreman,  a logger and a private in the Canadian Army.

He had volunteered for the Canadian Army in Nanaimo at the age of 21 in 1916. His rank was a private in the Canadian Infantry, in the Unit 143rd battalion.

He trained as a sniper/gunner, and his accuracy was 90%. Pte. 826846 served in the First World War — The Great War — from the summer of 1914 to late 1918.

“In my lifetime, I have known all nationalities and found they are all good people,” he said.

Ḵápelḵeh-+ raised seven children on the Mission 1 reserve in North Vancouver.

Today there are more than 70 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to cherish the legacy of Ḵápelḵeh-+ Andrew (Andy) Natrall.

We (the family) have a Facebook group, and we share pictures and stories as often as we can.

One day in 2019, there was a post about my great-grandfather’s totem pole at an art gallery.

A year went by, and the pole was being offered for sale.

I immediately contacted My Mondo Trading, in Brentwood Bay. The pole’s original price was $3,200, but the owner gave us a back-to-family price: of $ 2,400, a difference of $800, and we got free shipping.

The down payment was $500. We had about six weeks to pay the remaining amount.

We held a few fundraisers.

With the family's help, we raised enough money to purchase the pole and have it returned home.

Thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart.

It’s really heartwarming all the effort to return this pole back to our family.

It was returned in 2020.

Cousin Stḵwalkwlh (Cody Mathias) had refurbished it. This is the first artifact he restored on his mother’s side of the family, though he has done many on his father’s side.

Our family brings this pole out into the community and tells our grandfather’s stories — keeping his legacy alive today.

Writer Chelachatanat is North and South American, Ojibwa and a Squamish Nation member.

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