Sunwapta Totem Pole

CFRN Totem Pole Restoration ← click here to view a 30MB News report aired on CFRN-TV on October 22, 2010.

History

For 35 years, the Sunwapta Totem Pole dominated the landscape of the CFRN headquarters just West of Edmonton, from the 1954 sign-on of CFRN-TV, until renovations by new owner Electrohome in 1989. It was carved by a well known West Coast artist named Chief Mathius Joe Capilano of the Squamish Nation who also created the Thunderbird House Pole, erected at the crest of Prospect Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park on August 26, 1936. The totem had originally be given to Mrs. M.D. Muttart in the mid-1930s by local aboriginal peoples, as thanks for some of her charitable work. She kept it at her family’s Jasper Place Lumber yard, until Mrs. Muttart gave it to CFRN owner Dr. G.R.A. Rice in 1939.

When Dr. Rice received a television license in 1954, he required additional studio and office space, so decided to centralize CFRN Radio and Television at the new television transmitter site just West of Edmonton on what was then the highway to Jasper. This West Coast totem pole became the centre piece, and quickly was known as “The Sunwapta Totem Pole” after Rice’s Sunwapta Broadcasting Company.

In 1989, Ken Macklin was teaching sculpture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. One of his students mentioned that CFRN was renovating and there may be some scrap metal to be had. He did find some, but in his searching he also came across a large construction dumpster. In it, with no other debris, is the totem! An inquiry as to its fate confirms it is destined for the dump!!! He asked if he could have it, and until 2002 it lived at his home. After that, it was sold to the man who had it until the auction a few weeks ago, where our odyssey began. Being an artist, he recognized it as a piece of art and as a young lad he knew it as having been a landmark and a part of his family history. His mother was Virginia Macklin, host of Morning Magazine on CFRN for many years with Norris McLean. He is very happy with our efforts in all of this and has in fact bought a share in memory of his Mom. If you find yourself at the Art Gallery of Alberta, you can thank him for his totem pole rescue effort by going to look at his impressive sculpture residing outside of the Terrace Level on the third floor.

Click to enlarge a picture:

Click above to enlarge a picture.
A quick note on the totem’s history that has recently come to light.  First, to its early days before Sunwapta. Many of us assumed it was of an early 1950’s vintage, just before the start of TV here in 1954. In fact, it is likely 20 years older, having been given as a gift to Dr. Rice in 1939 by Mrs. M.D. Muttart, of the famous local lumber family. She was given it as a gift by some aboriginal people as thanks for some of her charitable work. The totem then sat for several years at the Jasper Place Lumber yard before coming to this site.  The extra years and connection to one of Edmonton’s other famous families is of great interest to the Museum.  The other part of the totem history concerns a question many people were asking me, ‘how did it ever leave CFRN in the first place?’   This is outlined in Lawrence Herzogs’s article released yesterday, but for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it, here’s the story. In 1989 Ken Macklin was teaching sculpture at the U of A and one of his students mentioned that CFRN was renovating and there may be some scrap metal to be had. He comes out and does find some, but in his searching he comes across a large construction dumpster. In it, with no other debris, is the totem! An inquiry as to its fate confirms it is destined for the dump!!! He asked if he could have it, and until 2002 it lived at his home. After that, it was sold to the man who had it until the auction a few weeks ago, where our odyssey began. Being an artist, he recognized it as a piece of art and as a young lad he knew it as having been a landmark and a part of his family history. His mother was Virginia Macklin, host of Morning Magazine on CFRN for many years with Norris McLean. He is very happy with our efforts in all of this and has in fact bought a share in memory of his Mom.  If you find yourself at the Art Gallery of Alberta, you can thank him for his totem pole rescue effort by going to look at his impressive sculpture residing outside of the Terrace Level on the third floor