B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Three First Nations in B.C. gathered Friday to raise a restored replica totem pole at a Canada-U.S. border crossing — a decade after it was removed by the province without notice.

The Semiahmoo, Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida nations say the pole symbolizing the grizzly bear was raised near the Peace Arch crossing in the 1950s but taken down without consultation in 2008 to make way for a new tourism centre.

Members of the three nations held a ceremony at Peace Arch Provincial Park and said the removal of the pole was undignified and ignored their traditions.

However, its position at the Canada-U.S. border now sends an important message to visitors about three First Nations standing together, they said.

They also recognized deceased carver Mungo Martin, a Kwakwaka’wakw artist and leader, for creating the pole, which was commissioned by the Royal British Columbia Museum and based on a pole in the Haida Gwaii community of Skidegate.

Premier John Horgan said a “historic wrong” was committed, and the raising of the pole on Semiahmoo traditional territory a decade after its removal represents part of the reconciliation process with First Nations.

“There was no ceremony when the pole first went up, there was no respect when the pole was brought down, and on behalf of the province of British Columbia I want to apologize to all of those who were involved,” he said.

Horgan said he will make a formal statement when the legislature reconvenes in the fall.

He credited Coun. Joanne Charles of the Semiahmoo First Nation for bringing the issue to the government and making the raising of the pole possible.

Charles told those attending the ceremony that when she heard the pole had been “ripped out from it base,” she started what turned out to be a 10-year process to get it back to the area, with help from others including her mother and aunt as they persevered to press the province into action.

“It’s a beautiful day for me, a long journey of work,” she said.

“We’re going to reconcile what happened and we’re going to celebrate by having a proper raising of the pole, which never happened in the ’50s,” Charles said, adding people in her territory became caretakers of the pole that was ”waiting for this day to happen.”

Martin’s family, including his great grandson David Mungo Knox, who is also a carver and a hereditary chief, were among those who attended the ceremony of singing, dancing and drumming.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

A render of the proposed expansion at Kelowna Christian School. (City of Kelowna)
City council backs major Kelowna Christian School expansion

The proposal will now go to the Agricultural Land Commission

Vernon’s Jim Cotter and Team B.C. defeated the Yukon 9-2 for their first win Monday, March 8, at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. picks up first win at Brier

Steve Laycock and teammates cruise past the Yukon 9-2 Monday at the Calgary bubble

Kelowna RCMP are looking to identify this man, who was involved in an attempted robbery in Rutland. (Kelowna RCMP)
Kelowna RCMP searchng for attempted robbery suspect

The incident happened in the 800-block of Rutland Road North

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: Royal Dismissal

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read