Bukwila, set at the steps of Lansdowne campus’ Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, has been welcoming students to campus for the past 23 years.
In 1997, the college commissioned (the late) Art Thompson, a renowned Indigenous artist, alumnus and long-time friend of Camosun, to carve the one-of-a-kind totem pole.
Art Thompson based the design of the 15.5-foot pole on the Dididaht Whaling Chief, Bukwila. Art’s brother Jack is a hereditary whaling chief with the Dididaht people and he gave Art permission to use his Dididaht name, Bukwila, for the pole.
In Dididaht tradition, the greatest honour that can be bestowed is to welcome a person with a whale feast, as whale meat is sacred food. Bukwila is the ultimate welcome to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students as they arrive on Camosun’s Lansdowne campus, which is located on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples.
Art Thompson was given the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award posthumously at the college’s June 2003 Graduation Ceremonies. At 19, he enrolled in Camosun’s West Coast Native Indian Arts program and later went on to become a renowned Canadian Master artist.