Haida Gwaii celebrated a monumental Hospital Day on Saturday.
Not only was it the 110th Hospital Day in Queen Charlotte, hundreds gathered in front of the islands’ newest hospital for its finishing achievement — the raising of the Skidegate Inlet Healing House Pole / Sahgwii X̲aana K̲aahlii Ngaaysdll Naay GyaaG̲ang. Closing the day was a feast to celebrate the pole raising at the George Brown Recreation Centre in Skidegate.
Carved by Master carver Tim Boyko with Tony Greene, Tyler York, and Billy Yovanovich III, who also painted it, the pole tells the story of traditional and modern medicine combined. It features bear teaching a doctor, a raven between a baby and fungus man, a Haida shaman in regalia, an eagle, and up top, three watchmen representing nurses and a doctor.
“When we raise this pole, and hold a feast to celebrate, it will be the first monumental pole raising in Daajing Giids in well over 200 years,” said Kim Goetzinger, emcee at the raising.
Kerry Laidlaw is site administrator for the new Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre / Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay, which opened last year. Laidlaw said right from the beginning of the hospital project, organizers planned a prominent place for a monumental Haida pole.
Given how close it is to the hospital, the pole has a unique, engineered steel base to keep it secure so the pole raising was joined by a construction crew as well as hundreds of strong-armed pole raisers.
“We hope this blending of approaches reinforces the message of joining together that is at the heart of the symbolism of this event,” Laidlaw said.
While the pole raising was the highlight of Hospital Day, it started as always with a parade along Oceanview Drive and a goal of fundraising $25,000.
Ellen Foster, chair of the Hospital Day committee, said this year’s funds will be used to buy new ophthalmology equipment to replace a 40-year-old device used by visiting specialists. The funds also support the Margie Colcol Bursary program, which since 2000 has awarded $57,000 to islanders going to school for healthcare careers.
Hospital Day was also one of a long list of supporters who helped fund the nearly $250,000 needed for the pole and the feast. Others included Northern Health, Gwaii Trust, Northern Savings, the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Vancouver Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, anonymous donors, and Doctors of B.C.
Looking around at dozens of volunteers serving lunch, manning booths, and auctioning items in the community hall, Foster noted that every single one of them is a volunteer — and many did double duty on Saturday, later serving at the pole-raising feast in Skidegate.
“It takes a village to make this happen,” she said.
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