Landmarks - Public Art in the Capital Region


Thunderbird Orca Spindle Whorl by Charles W. Elliott

Thunderbird Orca Spindle Whorl by Charles W. Elliott
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Artwork DescriptionCarving in the form of spindle whorl. The design represents the legend of the Thunderbird and Orca/Killer Whale [see artist's statement below].
Artwork StatementThe carving represents the legend of the Thunderbird and Orca/Killer Whale. The Thunderbird is the mythical spiritual bird and the Orca would be the physical ruler with the mighty power of the seaworld. The Thunderbird and Orca are always depicted in a struggle and represent the balance of power between the physical and spiritual worlds. The First Nations people would call the Thunderbird through song, meditation and prayer to remove the Orca to distant waters to that the good fishing could return to the waters near the village. It was said in our legends that thunder claps could be heard from the flapping of the wings of the Thunderbird and lightning flashes from the blinking of the Thunderbird's eyes. The Orca could also be a friend and a powerful wonder to the First Nations people. Orcas travel in family groups similar to wolves. The legend of the Thunderbird/Orca is held sacred by all coast First Nations people and is truly a display of the balance of power which is the theme of this carving.

About Charles W. Elliott

DatesBrentwood Bay, BC
Artist BioMaster carver Charles W. Elliott grew up on the Tsartlip First Nations reserve in Brentwood Bay, BC, near Victoria, and began learning how to paint, draw and carve at a young age. Although self-taught, Elliott played a large role in reviving the Coast Salish art discipline by dedicating himself to the mastering this tradition of Native art for four decades. He has created many artworks throughout his career, from traditional carvings such as masks to paintings, prints, graphics, contemporary sculptures and utilitarian objects. Elliott's renown is evident in the numerous works in private collections around the world. He carved the Queen's baton used in the Commonwealth Games in 1994, and he was commissioned to create a Talking Stick that was given to Nelson Mandela. Elliott also lectures at various levels of education, teaches youth, and mentors emerging artists. A leader within his community, he volunteers many hours to promote cultural education and Salish art. He was awarded the prestigious Order of British Columbia in 2005.


Artwork TypeFirst Nations
MediumPaint on Cedar
Unveiled date2004
DimensionsCircular sculpture - 2.6 m in diameter
SiteSouth Entrance to the Esquimalt Municipal Hall and Greater Victoria Public Library - 1229 Esquimalt Road
Art CategoryCivic Public Art
Selection ProcessCivic: Acquisition by Council
Municipality/NeighbourhoodEsquimalt: Town Centre



Type of Artwork