The two totems on the Songhees First Nation and its longhouse are under the watchful eye of security after a series of racist incidents.
The South Island’s nine first nations all report an explosion in racism directed towards them, according to Songhees Chief Ron Sam.
“It’s reached a point where our members in all of our communities don’t feel safe. There is hate that’s coming out. There’s a lot coming out that we really need to get a handle on as a region. As leaders and as members of our communities.”
The recent events being alluded to all started on Canada Day.
After a peaceful event at the B.C. Legislature — intended to focus attention on the children who died at residential schools — a crowd wound up at the statue of Captain James Cook in the Inner Harbour.
They tore it down from its platform and threw it into the water.
Within the day, someone torched a totem on top of the Malahat and left the words “one totem – one statue.”
That weekend, racist incidents targeting First Nations on the South Island exploded, according to Indigenous leaders.
“We’ve had to ramp up security here on our reserve,” Sam said. “We have security nighttime on our places of culture, and our artwork around our reserve is being monitored.”
Sam says the Songhees hired security guards after online threats began to surface on Sunday, July 4.
Since then, they’ve chased away 11 suspicious individuals coming onto the reserve late at night.
All the First Nations say they are now protecting their property with private security because they don’t feel safe.
Pacquachin Chief Allan Tom said it’s important that differences of the past are reconciled and everyone moves forward in a good way.
“I certainly don’t want to be up late at night wondering and hoping that my daughter is safe. The message I’m sending really is ‘please stop.’ we cannot have this type of behaviour going on out there.”
The leaders of the nine Nations are calling for an immediate end to the recent violence and vandalism around the southern Island.
A document has been signed saying such acts, like the toppling of statues or the burning of totem poles, are not supported by Indigenous communities.
With the signing of this letter, the nine South Island chiefs denounce the racism and acts of vandalism and were supported by local, and provincial politicians.
“We have to get along,” Tom said. “We all share this land, and it’s time that we accept each other as neighbours. And we must become friends.”
Now they are hoping the work to heal can really begin.
READ MORE: Burned Malahat totem pole believed to be arson: Shawnigan Lake RCMP