Restoration of the Hillaire Entrance Pole

poledrop1The main totem pole was designed by UW professor and curator of the Burke Museum, William Holm, a nationally known authority on Northwest Coast First Peoples. He made the design at the request of the Sahaptin Chapter who had won the privilege in a Potlatch attendance contest. The design is symbolic of the original five chapters of the Lodge. The top figures are Watchmen of the Sahaptin Chapter, the second figure down is a wolf of the Klahanie Chapter, the Eagle symbolizes the KwinKwinKuleg Chapter, the fourth is the Sun of the Sunyakwa Chapter and the Beaver is of the Hyas Eena Chapter. The lodge commissioned Joe Hillaire a master carver and activist of the Lummi Tribe to carve the pole in the Coast Salish style. The proud pole was erected and dedicated along with the longhouse in 1962.


While the Longhouse Committee sought out site plans and building designs they felt it was prudent to work on restoration of the historically unique Hill aire Entrance Pole. It would be almost impossible to try to replace a monument of this type. Replacement cost for this gigantic piece of art was projected to be up towards a half of a million dollars. It was crucial that repairs and restoration occur so that the Hillaire pole would grace the new building, once built, for many years to come.

The plan was to bring down the pole so that work could be done on it and the site before the new longhouse was created. Once built the pole would be re-raised on a new foundation and be secured to the building as well.



Restoration work on the Hillaire pole began on December 10, 2005. Youth and adult volunteers first braced the pole to provided additional strength.

Then once braced and strapped a crane began to lift the pole until the base carried none of the pole massive weight. The L-Beams were then cut and the pole gracefully swung free. Then, carefully, using guide wires the volunteers spun and lowered the pole to the site of restoration along what was the southern wall of the old longhouse

The damage of forty years was clearly evident. Rot and soft spots were present on several of the figures. The base of the pole was so badly rotted that little remained. The Sunyakwa's Sun beak needed to be replaced along with the watchmen's hats. A woodpecker sometime over the past few years also found a home in one of the watchmen's cheeks.


Once down, Arrowmen erected temporary structures at the longhouse site so that restoration work could occur on location. The Longhouse Committee chose master carver and dancer Ralph Bennett to restore the mighty pole. Scouts are familiar with Mr. Bennett's work, as he carved the beautiful pole in front of the new Camp Pigott dining hall. Coincidentally, Ralph studied for a time under Joe Hillaire who originally carved the massive pole. Ralph said it was special to work on a carving that one of his teachers worked on.


Ralph and his team began work by letting the pole dry out. Then they cleaned the pole and removed foreign substances from the totem that were apart of previous restoration attempts. The carvers then, using traditional tools and techniques, began to remove rot and soft spots. They then re-carved the watchmen's hats and the Sunyakwa beak.


The carvers did an amazing job once the old material was removed and the old cedar shown through, all agreed it was a good idea to restore this awesome totem pole. The carvers then coated the wood with various protectors what will keep away the insects and rot, and minimize damage brought on by the weather.

Once the front of the pole was completed, volunteers lifted and rotated the totem pole so that the back could be cleaned, restored and preserved.

Finishing touches are now being applied to the Hillaire Entrance pole. If you are at Camp Pigott wander up to the longhouse site to see the progress.

Please spread the word that work is being done on the longhouse and at the longhouse site!

The Longhouse Committee has several goals, besides constructing a new Longhouse.

Immediate Goals

  • Raise funds to build a Northwest Coast style longhouse at Camp Pigott.
  • Develop a site plan for future development of the Longhouse site at Camp Pigott.
  • Construct a Northwest Coast style longhouse at Camp Pigott.
  • Restore the existing carvings at the Longhouse site.
Long-Term Goals
  • Establish a maintenance fund for the Longhouse and the adjacent structures and property.
  • Commission artists for new carvings and artwork at the Longhouse site, per the site plan.
  • Develop the Longhouse site according to the site plan.

Projects: Phase I

  • Develop site plan
  • Design new longhouse Click Here to See Final Design
  • Bring water and electricity to longhouse site from Camp Pigott
  • Repair and restore Hillaire Entrance Pole
  • Build new longhouse
  • Hold dedication Potlatch for new longhouse
  • Projects: Phase II
    • Repair, restore or replace chapter totem poles
    • Build year round housing for staff at site
    • Finish landscaping including new totem pole pavilion
    • Finish candidate trail
    • Commission new totem pole construction in honor of the project
  • Projects: Phase III
    • Build Lodge Museum and year round training facility
    • Create Endowment fund for care and maintenance of longhouse and site.