New Crossing Cultures and Healing totem pole unveiled in front of the Blanshard building


WATCH: Something new stands in front of a provincial government building in downtown Victoria. A totem pole carved over the summer outside the Royal BC Museum was officially unveiled Tuesday, Luisa Alvarez was there.

Originally a 300 year-old red cedar, a new totem pole has been unveiled in front of the Richard Blanshard building.

The tree was donated by Timber West then stationed in front of the BC museum where members of the Tsawout Nation and master carvers Tom and Perry LaFortune worked on it for eleven weeks, carving out each element to go with the theme of crossing cultures and healing.

“We wanted to do something that would have meaning to it,” said co-carver Perry.

On Tuesday, it was officially unveiled standing tall in front of the Richard Blanshard building that houses the ministries of Health and Mental Health and Addictions.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says it will serve as a reminder of the government’s commitment to recognizing the importance of culture when it comes to the health-care system.

“To ensure that First Nations are in the driver’s seat in shaping and delivering programs because genuine reconciliation demands nothing less,” said Darcy.

And while the totem pole is an admirable sight, the LaFortune bothers say it’s important to understand there is meaning behind each element.

On the bottom is a woman, Tom says it’s paying tribute to the matriarchs in Indigenous culture.

“Grandmothers they teach us humility and how to be humble and how to be a real person,” said Tom.

Above her is the owl, who has the ability to see in the past lives, the present and the future.

“The owl has a frog, the frog is the conscious of the story. It’s about us reminding people what we have been through and what we can do to change it, on top of that is a raven who is the messenger of good news,” said Perry.

It also has a connecting feature, the rope. It is held by the woman and also by the raven at the top, symbolizing the resilience of the Coast Salish people.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the project is just one piece of the reconciliation journey.

“We recognize that more work needs to be done but today is a day to recognize both that work and the work we need to do together with respect to reconciliation in our society,” said Dix.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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