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

Just Posted

New Lake Country school sports fields to include track and field oval

School rec facilities to be developed on former Aspen Grove golf course

Freezing rain, some snow forecasted for Okanagan-Similkameen-Shuswap

Environment Canada forecasting freezing rain and snow for much of the region

Rockets stumble again, lose 6th straight to Moose Jaw Warriors

The Rockets will have to bounce back with weekend games against the top two teams in the league

UPDATE: Homeowners keep fire at bay in Oyama garage

Fire crews are reportedly on scene of a structure fire on Broadwater Road

Comedians to share laughs to help Kelowna school

Fundraiser begins effort to replace $20,000 stolen from South Rutland Elementary PAC

Music Rundown: Where you should be watching live music this week

Fill your calendar this week with these great shows

Body of Canadian miner found after African kidnapping

Kirk Woodman’s body was discovered 100 kilometres from the site where he worked for Progress Mineral Mining Company in Burkina Faso

Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

The study released Thursday is the world’s first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates

Snowed-in Austrian nuns insist they’re staying put

Authorities have deployed heavy equipment to clear snow and fallen trees blocking the road to the monastery

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Most Read