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Work underway to raise first totem pole in Gwaii Haanas in more than a century

Jaalen Edenshaw and Tyler York begin work on designing the Legacy Pole, which will be the first totem pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in over a century. - Jason Shafto/Full Moon Photo
Jaalen Edenshaw and Tyler York begin work on designing the Legacy Pole, which will be the first totem pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in over a century.
— image credit: Jason Shafto/Full Moon Photo

For the first time in more than a century, members of the Haida Nation will be erecting a totem pole in the areas covered by Gwaii Haanas National Park.

The 42-foot Legacy Pole, which will be erected next August, will be carved at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate over the next nine months by Haida artist Jaalen Edenshaw and his apprentice Tyler York. Edenshaw was chosen for the job by a committee made up of the Council of the Haida Nation, a Haida carver, a hereditary chief and two representatives from the Gwaii Haanas National Park.

The theme for the design of the pole is “Land, Sea, People” which tells the story of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada to sign the South Moresby Agreement 25 years ago and includes representation of visitors, archaeologists, the Haida Watchmen and the protestors at Lyell Island.

The date of the last pole raised in Gwaii Haanas is unknown, those involved in the project say it is likely at least 130 years ago as research shows the villages left Sgang Gwaay in 1887 or 1888. And while no new poles have been put up there have been a number of poles removed from the area, including 11 poles removed by the BC Totem Pole Preservation Committee in 1957.

The Government of Canada, which is undertaking the pole carving and raising in partnership with the Haida Nation, has committed $130,000 to the carving of the pole.

Look for more on this story in the Nov. 21 issue of the Prince Rupert Northern View.

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