Historic Haida Gwaii totem raising celebrates protection from logging

By Damien Gillis, October 24, 2013. Source: The Common Sense Canadian


A new video from Parks Canada follows the carving and raising of a 42-foot totem pole on Haida Gwaii this past summer. The first pole raising there in 130 years, it commemorates the 20-year anniversary of the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park.

The Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole was raised on August 15, 2013, at Hlk’yah GawGa (Windy Bay) on Lyell Island  before a crowd of 400.

“Monumental poles are more than just art. They hold histories, they mark events and they tell stories,” explains artist Jaalen Edenshaw, whose design was chosen by a selection committee made up of a hereditary chief, two Haida citizens, a carver and two Gwaii Haanas staff members. Proposals were submitted without names attached, evaluated solely on their story and design.

In the video, Jaalen shows the different stories carved into the impressive pole, including one which symbolizes the 1980s blockade which protected the region from logging and led to the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park. Another carved feature recognizes the formative influence of earthquakes on Haida Gwaii, which saw its famed hot springs dry up following seismic activity a year ago.

“The figure is ‘Sacred One Standing and Moving’,” Jaalen explains, “and as he moves, that’s when Haida Gwaii shakes and that’s what causes the earthquakes.”

The pole raising was a team effort, with dozens of Haida people and visitors pulling together on five long lines to erect it and lodge the base of the red cedar pole in a pre-dug hole for stability.

The whole process is captured from a bird’s eye-view via a small go-pro camera placed on top of the pole.