Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Oyea Family Model Totem Pole


O-yeá, a very powerful and rich Eagle chief was born and lived on the Nass River several hundred years ago. He was also a fine, noted carver and medicine man. Owning several houses in several villages to house his several wives and families of slaves, he was able to live in any village he chose.

Before he died, he carved this pole with a carved box on top to hold his remains. The top is O-yeá himself wearing a crown of mountan goat horns, signifying a medicine man. Underneath him is a beaver holding a broken, burning stick, which is our family crest. On top the original (which was 37-feet tall) stood an eagle. It now stands in the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. It was found in the forest of the Nass River in several pieces and in bad state of decay and missing many pieces, including the eagle.

In the 1970s the museum asked myself and conservationist Mr. Waterman to piece it together and raise it in the museum. It was at this time that my mother told me this story.

Norman Tait

Norman Tait

Norman Tait



Norman was born in 1941 in the northern community of Kincolith, British Columbia. He learned from his family protocols, oral histories and ceremonies and had an early interest in the arts. He carved the 16.5-metre (55-foot) totem pole for the entranceway to the Field Museum in Chicago and a totem pole commissioned by the British royal family for Bushy Park in London. He has carved and ceremonially raised five totem poles in Greater Vancouver, including at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Stanley Park, Capilano Mall and the Native Education Centre. He has conducted extensive research into Nisga’a art and is the foremost Nisga’a artist in wood, precious metals and graphics.