Totem pole raised at UBC honours First Nations victims of residential schools
Published Saturday, April 1, 2017 3:12PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 2, 2017 1:27PM PDT
A totem pole symbolizing the history of residential schools was installed on the University of British Columbia campus Saturday.
The 55-foot pole is made from an 800-year-old cedar tree from B.C.’s North Coast, and was carved by Haida master and hereditary chief James Hart.
Salmon and Bear Mother surround the base of the pole to depict life for Canada’s Indigenous people before residential schools opened in the 1800’s.
The middle includes a residential school house and children holding one another to show the time while the system was in place.
The top uses an eagle and canoe to represent life after residential schools closed.
Thousands of copper nails were pounded into the Reconciliation Pole in honour of the children who died in the system.
“I see that not enough attention has been paid to that,” said Hart.
The pole was installed near the future site of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, which will serve as a place to teach people about the history of Indian residential schools.
“It’s been the topic of conversation in many of my classes and I’ve been so happy to hear people talking about it,” UBC student Adina Williams told CTV News.
The installation ceremony was attended by hundreds, including people who were sent to residential schools.
“For me, I believe it’s a reassurance of the strength and the resilience that we’ve had,” said Barney Williams.
Williams said he still has nightmares about the abuse he endured: “I’m finally able to sleep in the dark. It’s only been the last four years I guess and I’m 77.”
Speakers said they hope the pole serves as an opportunity for people to learn about the history and acts as a spark towards further reconciliation.