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Culturally insensitive totem pole to be replaced in Kitimat

Haisla First Nation master carver Sammy Robinson says the pole tells the story of the region, when a monster flock of seagulls kept intruders out of the area during an important fishing season. - Northern Sentinel files.
Haisla First Nation master carver Sammy Robinson says the pole tells the story of the region, when a monster flock of seagulls kept intruders out of the area during an important fishing season.
— image credit: Northern Sentinel files.

The raising of a new totem pole later this year in Kitimat, on British Columbia's North Coast could finally remove an irritant between the local First Nation and the district.

The current totem pole in Centennial Park is reaching the end of its life, but Haisla First Nation master carver Sammy Robinson says the pole wasn't carved according to the their customs.

Robinson says the pole tells the story of the region, when a monster flock of seagulls kept intruders out of the area during an important fishing season.

He says the decades-old pole was commissioned when district officials had little knowledge of indigenous art and "everything about it is wrong," including its uphill direction, facing away from the ocean.

Officials with the District of Kitimat say a Haisla carver will create a new pole, expected to be raised by October.

The district is still deciding what to do with the old pole, but George MacDonald, an associate professor of anthropology at Simon Fraser University says its value should not be underestimated.

"I consider that to be one of the major pieces of northwest coast art on the coast today. So I suspect if the city does choose to sell it, they should look for something between about $400,000 and $500,000," MacDonald says.

A final decision on the fate of the old pole will be made by Kitimat council.

 

The Canadian Press

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