In a ceremony emphasizing co-operation and reconciliation, a replica of a Haida totem pole has been raised on Semiahmoo First Nation traditional territory, at Peace Arch Provincial Park.
Participating in the ceremony were Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell, Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chiefs Bill Cranmer and David Mungo Knox, Council of the Haida Nation President Peter Lantin and Premier John Horgan.
“It’s exciting to see three Nations come together, as well as the provincial government, to bring life back to this pole,” said Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell (Xwopokton). “The rest of society needs at least a glimpse into our world. It brings an understanding, which brings less fear. And when there’s less fear, it brings appreciation for our differences.”
The totem pole is a replica of a pole from the Haida village of Skedans and was carved for the Royal British Columbia Museum by respected Kwakwaka’wakw carver Mungo Martin. The pole was raised at the Peace Arch border crossing in the 1950s. It was removed without consultation or notice during the provincial government’s reconstruction of the Peace Arch Visitor Centre in November 2008.
At the ceremony, Premier Horgan apologized for the treatment of the pole.
“On behalf of the Province of British Columbia, I offer a sincere apology to the Haida Nation, the Semiahmoo Nation, the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation and the family of the late Mungo Martin. The Province acknowledges its mistreatment of the totem pole during its abrupt, undignified removal from the Peace Arch border crossing 10 years ago.
“As we stand up the pole, we stand up together to set things right and honour the traditions of the communities it is connected to. Acknowledging the wrongs of the past is key to moving forward with reconciliation and setting a new path of respect and partnership,” said Premier Horgan.
The pole has been restored and raised in accordance with the cultures and traditions of the Semiahma, Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida peoples.
A formal apology will follow when the B.C. legislature resumes.
Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief Bill Cranmer (Kwaxalanukwama’yi) –
“If it wasn’t for Mungo Martin, we wouldn’t be able to do this important work, the ability to carry on with our ceremonies. He hung on to Indigenous culture when it was illegal, so we have a lot to be thankful for.”
Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief David Mungo Knox (‘Walas ‘Namugwis) –
“This is one small step to bury the hatchet about the ugliness that was put forward way back when the boat-people first came here. It’s time to move on; to embrace, to think happy thoughts as best we can, and all walk together as one Nation.”
Council of the Haida Nation President Peter Lantin (kil tlaats ‘gaa) –
“This beautiful pole is the creation of three nations coming together – it’s a Haida story told through the hands of Mungo Martin, a high-standing Kwakwaka’wakw artist and leader, and the Pole is being stood up on Semiahmoo traditional territory. It’s meaningful that this pole is being raised today; three nations standing together is an important message for visitors to receive as they come across the border, especially today in these fractious times.”
Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture –
“This replica Haida pole stands at the Canadian border as a reminder of our shared history. Today, we come together in the spirit of reconciliation and renewal, and celebrate the knowledge, history and contributions of the nations that are represented in this important piece of cultural heritage.”