Thousands gathered to watch the reconciliation pole be lifted at UBC Saturday afternoon.

Totem pole raised at UBC honours First Nations victimized by residential schools

The pole was carved from a 800-year-old red cedar tree on B.C.'s north coast.




A 17-metre totem pole installed at the University of British Columbia is a permanent reminder of the strength and resilience of the countless children victimized by the residential school system, one survivor said.

Elder Barney Williams used his remarks to a crowd gathered Saturday for the raising of the totem pole to talk about his experience of being raped and abused at a residential school on Meares Island, B.C.

“This is real folks, this is not something we make up because we want sympathy,” he said.

The mistreatment of generations of indigenous people, he said, is a “Canadian problem, not just a First Nations problem.”

The Reconciliation Pole, carved by Haida Nation hereditary chief James Hart, honours the victims and survivors of Canada’s residential school system.

Hart said indigenous artists from across Canada contributed to carving the pole, recognizing the extent of the torment that the schools inflicted.

“It’s not about me, it’s about all of us,” he said.

The pole was carved from a 800-year-old red cedar tree on B.C.’s north coast. It’s marked by thousands of copper nails representing the thousands of indigenous children who died in residential schools.

It’s designed in three sections, representing life before residential schools, during and after, Hart said.

The pole located at the heart of the Vancouver campus, at the future site of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre that is slated to open in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Williams said it’s more than just a symbol but an element of First Nations’ culture and legacy that has endured despite the attempts of the residential school system to wipe out their traditions.

“It’s part of a celebration that says ‘I’m still here, we’re still here.’ We weren’t beaten down to the point where we became non-existent,” he said in an interview.

Adina Williams, a second-year student at the University of B.C. who is not related to Barney Williams, called the installation of the pole a “beginning” and said she hopes it teaches people about Canada’s dark history.

She said her father spent seven years in a residential school, yet growing up, she never learned about the system.

“Throughout my years in high school and elementary school, there was very little acknowledgment of the residential school system. I think we spent a day on it in my social studies class in high school,” she said in an interview.

She said she hopes that’s changing, and with the university adding this monument to the campus, there will be more awareness about the abuse people endured.

“It makes me feel like that part of our history is being acknowledge, that the truth part of reconciliation is being known,” she said.

 

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Update: Woman arrested in ongoing homicide investigation in Prince George

Mounties are asking for public’s assistance in the case.

Youth voyageur canoeing program being developed in Vanderhoof

New Caledonia Paddlers Club are collaborating with SD91 and NVSS to develop the program.

COVID-19: 23 non-profits funded in northern B.C. through emergency support fund

Both Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake have received funding through United Way’s first round of allocations.

Vanderhoof man dead following two-vehicle collision on Canada Day

The incident occured on Highway 97C near Barnes Lake Road in Ashcroft.

Police investigate July 2 homicide in Houston

Man succumbed to injuries at Pearson Road residence

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from CP

Lower Mainland woman says llama farming neighbour shot her 11-month-old pup

Young dog was on owner’s Maple Ridge property when it was killed on June 21

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Most Read