Residents of Victoria who have grown accustomed to seeing beautiful totem poles at ThunderBird Park near Royal BC Museum are in for some sad news.
Two of the nearly 70-year-old replica totem poles are being removed and transferred to traditional First Nations leadership due to safety concerns.
After standing for 64 years near downtown’s Inner Harbour, the cultural landmarks have lost structural integrity and did not pass recent seismic and structural assessments.
“As some of these monumental poles near the end of their life cycle, we propose to return them to their source communities, for whom they have the greatest cultural significance,” said Prof. Jack Lohman CBE, CEO of the Royal BC Museum in a statement.
“We are transferring their ownership and guardianship in the spirit of reconciliation.”
The replica totem poles were built in the mid 1950s and are themselves recreations of totems made near the turn of the 20th century.
The first totem pole — the Kwakwaka’wakw house post replica — was carved in 1954 and was based on an original house post that was raised in the Gusgimukw village of Xwatis in Quatsino Sound in 1870.
The duplicate was carved by Mungo Martin with assistance from his son David Martin and friend Henry Hunt.
The second totem pole, the Haida mortuary pole replica, was carved in 1955 and is based on an original commemorative pole that was built sometime in the late 19th century.
It is considered a mortuary pole as the designs memorialize a high-ranking Haida woman who was shot and killed while travelling through the San Juan Islands in the late 1800s.
The replica totem pole was carved by the same artists, Mungo Martin, David Martin, and Henry Hunt with assistance from Mungo’s daughter, Helen Martin.
The two totem poles are expected to come down in the next 10 days, with the Kwakwaka’wakw house post replica being removed on Friday, May 31st and the Haida mortuary pole replica coming down by the end of next week.
The poles will be collected by Kwakiutl First Nation Chief David Mungo Knox, the great-grandson of the replicas’ lead carver, Mungo Martin. He will facilitate the next stage of the poles’ journeys.
The current plan for the Haida mortuary pole is to send it to Fort Rupert.