March'99 Downhomer Magazine
OUR "Heritage Tree"
The Tree of the Millennium!
The first moment I laid eyes on this massive log and breathed in its
wonderful cedar fragrance, I fell in love with it. Then when I saw the
exquisite images of Shanadithit and our Newfoundland Coat of Arms already
carved deeply into the tree, the words "HERITAGE TREE" made perfect sense
to me. It was like the time I read my first Downhomer magazine, I was
hooked! I knew I just had to be a part of something good for and about
Newfoundland and like the magazine, this tree represented heritage, culture,
art and industry that was going to make an impact on every Newfoundlander
and visitor to this Province. And what an impact this Tree has made
already! If you are only seeing our Heritage Tree for the first time
through these words and pictures, your first real visit to our Tree will
leave you spellbound.
Did you notice I said "our" Heritage Tree?
Yes, this is OUR Tree!It belongs now to every child, woman and man here in
Newfoundland and Labrador. The images carved on it commemorate 50 years
since Confederation, a 100 years of Newfoundland historical events, 500
years since John Cabot arrived, a 1000 years since the Vikings reached our
shores, and even more. Just as we are soon to celebrate a wonderful
Soiree'99 and ride into a new millennium, our Heritage Tree will also
depict our earliest aboriginal inhabitants of millenniums ago, the Maritime
Archaic Indians! It truly is THE TREE of the millennium!
Remember the old expression when driving and seeking directions, "You
can't miss it!"? Well whether driving east or west on the Trans Canada
Highway, the expression will be more "You WON'T miss it!" Just off the
highway east of Corner Brook looking at the scenic ski hills of majestic
Marble Mountain, the Heritage Tree now stands in all its glory. Although
still an artwork in progress, this massive 350 year old redwood cedar pole
stands at 52 feet high(15m.),about four and a half feet in diameter and now
weighs in at about 7 tons!(6550Kg) So far 65%% of the Tree is completed
with images that not only symbolize but depict our past and present. And
the images are not just facing one direction but encompass an entire 360
degrees. And since I don't wish to rob you of some of the surprise that
awaits you and your families, let me just say some of the deeply cut and
polished images like Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Locomotive 596 of the NFLD
Railway, the Moravian Church of Labrador, an iceberg, fishing stage, a
Newfoundland dog, and even the Colonial Building are just "some" of the
carvings that await your viewing.
Where did such an inspiration come from to establish the idea of our own
Heritage Tree? Answer: Trevor Bennett. I only know Trevor Bennett as a
good friend who would not want me to list his personal life long
achievements. So I'll just say that Trevor is Mayor of Steady Brook and
son of the famous Nurse Bennett of Daniel's Harbour, whose home there is
now undergoing a complete historical renovation as a national historical
Heritage Canada Site. Trevor's passion for writing poetry and communicating
historical Newfoundlandia to locals as well as visitors to his wife's fine
Bed and Breakfast home, are truly wonderful.
Originally Trevor conceived the idea of the Heritage Tree after a local
reporter asked him what the Town of Steady Brook was doing for the 1999 Jeux
du Canada Winter Games. Much like the aboriginal totem poles out West,
Trevor wondered whether or not there was a tree big enough here in Nfld
where artists could carve images that would depict our own historical
people and endeavors.
But where would he find such a special Tree? Thank God there are
Newfoundlanders everywhere who still and always will call Newfoundland and
Labrador "home"! Bring in Dan Preshyon, originally from Port aux Choix,
and his wife Tracy Lee Bruce, originally from Stephenville. Dan has been
working in the forests of British Columbia for the last 20 years and through
both their hard-working efforts, contact was made with Western Forests
Products of B.C. and a 65 foot section of a massive cedar tree was donated
to the cause. How would it get here? Bring in Newfoundlander Paul Head of
Household Shipping and Movers who offered to transport the tree right
across Canada! Then bring in Marine Atlantic! They offered to transport
the tree from North Sydney to Port aux Basques. Eventually Clyde Way
Trucking freely donated its time and service to transport the tree as did
Lloyd Clarke of Conway Services Ltd. to the planned site at Marble Mountain.
Even the military, under the direction of Major Currie of the Nfld 2nd
Battalion reserve, freely offered and installed a 70 foot tent to cover the
whole Tree for the artists to work under.
Then enter Marble Mountain and our provincial Government. They agreed to
oversee the complete project along with Joe Dicks of the V.C.B to ensure
the artists were given special attention and places to live. Joe Dicks, own
er of Marble Mtn. Cabins, Perry Butt, owner of the Lodges, and Mark Sexton
of Marblewood Village gave free accommodation to the artists.
And finally, through the efforts of a Nfld. company who wishes to remain
anonymous, the preparation and construction of the site for the erection of
Tree was accomplished for little or no cost. As for the artists, they are
a story that will be featured in a future Downhomer. But all are
accomplished wood carving artists with talent galore. They are Bernie
Benoit, from Port au Port, Scott Butt of St George's, Norman Young of
Griquet, and Colin Mahoney of Steady Brook.(The sketching artists were Paul
Smith and Robin Howelland now Mike Bonnell) I've enjoyed watching them
work on this Tree every time I visit. They all have a great sense of humor
and yet really know how to concentrate and put the chisel into the
wood...and occasionally into their fingers, arms and legs!!
Working on this Tree has been a real joy and challenge since they have
been working in the horizontal position. Since these artisans du bois much
prefer working in the vertical position, now that the Tree is up, they
can't wait to get at the remaining ideas and concepts and let the cedar
chips fly! I found just watching them make images appear, like the complete
face of Shanadithit, a fascinating process. It was as if Mother Nature
always had this beautiful last Beothuck in her bosom within the Tree and
suddenly it appeared as if out of nowhere. Perhaps you too will see them at
work this Spring and Summer when you visit and offer suggestions for the
Tree. You ideas will be most welcomed!! There are many others who have
played a part in establishing the Heritage Tree! "The list could go on
and on," says Trevor Bennett." And now we need every sponsor, business,
and Newfoundlander to rally around this tree and see it completed. There
are many more carved images to put on this Heritage Tree since it was
planted on Feb 2nd,1999, to make it a finished work of art."
How true that expression is: "a work of art!" This Tree is the first of its
kind in North America and I know for a fact since I now sit on the Heritage
Tree committee, that the vision for this incredible Tree and interpretation
site are plain and simple. Trevor says, "It is the good we do that lives a
fter us. "Our Heritage Tree will stand proud and tall for generations to
come. It will point the way to many other fabulous sights and historical
sites throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and be a constant reminder of our
culture and heritage for our children and their children's children.
The Heritage Tree site itself will be within a peaceful natural park to
view the tree as well as relax and picnic in the open air and sunshine.
With the beautiful Marble Mountain ski hills and Lodge less than a 5 minute
walk away, this tree will rest as if in the center of the mighty Humber
Valley. Indeed as Trevor wrote in one of his poems that I intertwined with
another poet's words, Charlene Benoit,age 14 (daughter of artist Bernie), a
new song has emerged here in part: Now a whole new millennium Will reach
this great land Our cedar Tree though silent Will speak - from human
The images and their stories
are carved for all to see
of founders and icons
who gave us -identity!
On our Heritage Tree,our Heritage Tree
Planted in soil now for all to see
A reminder to every child, woman and man
Of the history of Labrador and Newfoundland!
You too can help and make a difference. The Heritage Tree is possible because of the participation of its many contributors. The first and most valuable participants were our ancestors! Without them what then? Any donation large or small will be accepted (tax deductible)
Please mail donations and "suggestions" for further sponsors to:
Or you can make a donation into any CIBC Bank under
Remember OUR Tree -OUR Heritage! It's also our PRESENT to you!
(Mike Madigan is a teacher, writer, musician(Sharecroppers) and PR person of the Heritage Tree Committee. His group's latest song "The Heritage Tree' is adapted from the poems of Trevor Bennett and Charlene Benoit.)
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To contact the Sharecroppers, their web page address is below