Lekwungen traditional dancers entertained the crowd with a series of dances and musical numbers on Saturday during the official unveiling ceremony of the wood-carved entranceway to the Garry Oak Learning Meadow at Fort Rodd Hill. The archway was carved by Tom LaFortune of the Tsawout First Nation. Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff

Colwood’s Fort Rodd Hill unveils new hand-carved entrance piece

Entrance to Garry Oak Learning Meadow carved by Tom LaFortune

Tom LaFortune has been carving wood for 46 years, but he is adamantly opposed to having the title of “master” bestowed upon him.

“People call me a master carver but I haven’t mastered anything. I learn something with every carving I do,” he said.

His latest piece now stands at the entrance to Fort Rodd Hill’s Garry Oak Learning Meadow and was unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday morning.

The piece, which LaFortune said took him about two and a half months to construct, signifies the historical importance of this treed area for First Nations groups.

“We used to hunt in the Garry oak meadows for deer and (harvest) camus and other plants. It was a gathering place,” he said of traditional activities on the land.

LaFortune, a member of Tsawout First Nation, said the male and the female depicted on the carving represent the people and that the male’s mouth is open because speaking is the traditional role for men.

Having a piece commissioned for Fort Rodd Hill, which lies on the traditional territory of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, is also special for him, he added.

“My grandchildren can come and see this and their kids can come and see it.”

The unveiling ceremony was highlighted by a performance from the Lekwungen traditional dancers and singers.