An experience of a lifetime



The Haida Gwaii totem pole


On August 15, 2013 over four hundred people traveled to the southern Haida Gwaii to celebrate the 20th anniversary of an agreement between the Haida Nation and the Canadian Government. The ceremony was situated on the Lyell Island which was the historical place where the Haida Nation, in 1985, protested logging in the area. The 1985 protest was represented by five people standing together, hand in hand, in the totem pole carved by artist Jaalen Edenshaw. He was five years old when the standoff between the Haida Nation and the Government occurred. The Haida Nation’s president, Peter Lantin, told the attendee’s that the pole was the perfect way to tell the story of the resolution of that conflict.

One of our band teachers, Dr. Dean Markel, was incredibly fortunate enough to participate in such a historical event during his summer break. On that day, a 3000 pound totem pole the size of a three story building was lifted by physical strength and a handful of ropes, for the first time in 130 years. The amazing planning and the commitment of the people made this lifting possible. Alongside the hundreds of people who attended almost 1000 people watched the online stream of the ceremony.

The procedure of the lifting was easier than it sounded, five ropes were attached near the top of the pole, three in the front and two in the back. All the people pulling on the ropes listened to calls such as when to pull, how much to pull, and when to give slack. Dr. Markel describes the job by saying, “When the time came to raise the pole, it lifted into position with seemingly little effort-the teamwork of many people made it possible…what happened to be a day’s work was accomplished in less than an hour.” While the pole raising was being done, singers and drummers kept beautiful traditional music going. This event was surely an important historical one and all who witnessed it must have been deeply touched by such a beautiful ceremony.

Sourced from: The Vancouver Sun