In early July 2011, FRAMS obtained a generous grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation to supplement the approximately $3500 donated by the Sunwapta Totem Group and former CFRN TV employees to conserve the Sunwapta totem pole.
Between July and October, a consultation process and paint removal and consolidation of the pole took place. Through the summer months, conservation assistant Jenika Sobolewska was able to remove the flaking paint without damaging the original carvers’ marks. Cody Mathias noted that the hand of two carvers was evident on the totem pole – his grandfather Joe Mathias and his father, William Mathias.
Squamish carvers Cody Mathias and George Stokes of Vancouver (grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of Joe Mathias) were at the Royal Alberta Museum from October 19 to 23, 2011 to paint the totem pole. Cody and George refreshed the paint in the lower figures then whitewashed the upper sections of the pole. Cody sketched the motifs onto the whitewashed portions of the totem pole, then he and George painted the designs. A traditional blessing was held to bring the totem pole back to life. The Royal Alberta Museum is having an engineered external support fabricated from steel to hold the artfact upright both in storage and in future display.
The Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society was proud to have supported this project.