The onslaught of rain took pause as people stood atop the hill where a totem pole would be raised.
Some said the shining sun was a blessing, a sign. The special occasion drew Tsimshian and Indigenous people from other nations as well as the likes of musicians, environmentalists, the owner of Patagonia and a small crew of media.
For many this was the first time they had ever witnessed a pole raising — a ceremony not to be taken lightly. The ropes tied to the cedar were pulled by young and old, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in a community effort to raise the wolf carving to face out into the open sea.
But the celebration wasn’t unanimous. The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s patrol boat floated in the distance, eye-level with the totem pole, a reminder that despite the end of Pacific NorthWest LNG’s project on Lelu Island there is a disconnect, a lack of concensus, on who owns the land.
“PRPA considers any activities conducted on Lelu Island without PRPA authorization as trespass,” the port authority stated.
But Ken Lawson, or Gwishawaal of wolf clan, a Gitwilgyoots house leader of one of nine allied tribes of the Lax Kw’alaams said otherwise. “We’re marking our territory, we’re occupying our land as we have years ago,” he said at the pole raising.
It’s clear that more discussions lay in wait between the federal government and the people who are steadily rooting themselves — more visually — in to Lelu.