Harold Louie Joe was born in Cowichan and spent his childhood in Musqueam. His maternal grandfather was a mask and bent box carver, and his paternal grandfather was a totem pole carver and canoe builder. Inspired by the “silent inspiration” of his grandfather’s nods when he was a child, he began his craft at twelve years old.
Directed by the voices and whispers of his grandparents and ancestors, Harold Joe recognizes the impact and importance of respecting the place that all living beings have in this space. Finding the perfect cedar tree, for example, doesn’t take directions or maps, but instead explains that “[finding a cedar tree is] like a gift… it drew us there.”
Using tools that include carving knives, axes, and chainsaws, Harold Joe does not just create life from the flesh of cedar trees, he continues it. Cedar, he explains, has a “strong soul” that “makes life” for each human being. He offers prayer to the cedar tree, and shares conversation with it, listening to its lessons, following the whispers of those who came before, and breathing life back into it. As Joe continues to create and share his art with local communities and beyond, Joe frequents his work as a means to remind himself where he came from, and breathe “where the memories are.”
"Thunderbird and the Sun” and “Moon Above Wolf”
“Thunderbird and Sun” and “Moon Above Wolf” totems are located in the Library and Learning Commons at the Vancouver Island University Cowichan Campus. As Joe explains, “students are the greatest gift from Mother Earth to the World, and the placement of the totems encourages students to appreciate their meaning and feel at home in their learning environment.”