Reconciliation Pole Vancouver, BC Canada.

Reconciliation Poles - Vancouver (2019).JPG
In 2007, Davita Marsden had a vision of a totem pole smashing into the ground, burning through the layers beneath.

Twelve years later, the Anishinaabe Indigenous education teacher shared that vision with Chas Desjarlais, Vancouver’s district vice principal in Indigenous education.

On Monday, the two looked on as the vision became reality: a 44-foot-tall reconciliation pole outside the Vancouver School Board’s headquarters, set to be unveiled on Friday along with two welcoming poles as a symbol of reconciliation spanning generations and cultures.

The purpose of this project was to bring all nations together,” said Desjarlais, who is Nehiyaw-Metis and a member of the Cold Lake First Nations. “We acknowledge that we all come from different places, but we’re trying to work together in different ways.”

The pole was made by master Squamish carver Xwalacktun and his son James Harry. Two welcoming figures, one male and one female, were made by Musqueam artist William Dan and his family and Musqueam siblings Chrystal and Chris Sparrow, respectively.

Harry said the poles are symbols of how knowledge transcends generations, even in the light of the suffering endured by Indigenous peoples in Canada’s residential school system.

“We focused in the past on how negatively residential schools have treated us, but we want to move forward in a positive way,” says Harry. “(Carving) wasn’t just an artform. It was a way of life for us. We would pass and share stories through these carvings.

Marsden says it is a way of “demystifying” Indigenous education through a project that has been driven by women — and clearly acknowledging the Vancouver School Board is on unceded Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territory.

“It’s a form of decolonization,” she says.
— The Vancouver Sun - ZAK VESCERA: June 17, 2019
Reconciliation Pole (Work in Progress).JPG

Carving a Legacy

The red cedar tree is estimated to be 350 years old. Both James and Rick Harry worked in collaboration on this 44’ piece of beautiful wood.

James Harry