Old Raven pole to be returned from Jasper

  • Sep. 14, 2009 11:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay-It once stood in Massett and from looking at an old photograph, Frank Collison can see that the pole was positioned in front of a house with the name John written on it. Then, it was taken away. For 93 years the Raven pole, carved sometime around 1870 by master carver Simeon Stiltla, stood in the town of Jasper, Alberta, in Jasper National Park.In April of this year, the pole was taken down due to extensive rot and a recent announcement will see Haida carvers receive federal funding to create a new one to put in its place. “It’s a gorgeous pole,” said Mr. Collison, who traveled with Haida Nation president Guujaaw to Jasper earlier this month for the announcement, made by Environment Minister Jim Prentice. “Haida totem poles are an important symbol of Canadian art and who we are as Canadians, second only to the Group of Seven,” said Minister Prentice as he announced that the federal government will commission a pole to replace the much-loved Jasper landmark. “We heard from many visitors and residents that the totem pole was a cherished local landmark,” he said. The pole is now being stored while Parks Canada works with the Council of the Haida Nation to determine an appropriate final resting place for the structure. The 12-metre tall pole, which was bought and carted across the province by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1916, was crumbling due to long-term exposure to wind and weather. Parks Canada acquired the pole in 2000 when the heritage railway station where it stands was purchased from CN Railway. The pole was painted several times over the last century, said Mr. Collison, not in any traditional way, but to make it stand out and be more visible to visitors. Over the years that paint has become flakey and he says they are hoping to have it chipped off before the pole is returned to the islands. Mr. Collison said the old pole replicates certain crests from the Haida clan system, but the new one may be carved with figures more representative of its future Rocky Mountain home. Mr. Collison was impressed by the pole, which was carved by a man who carried the chief’s name that he now holds (Stiltla), but he was equally impressed by the landscape and the trip to Jasper.”It’s a wonderful place,” he said, noting that he was told 2 million visitors pass through the national park each year. He and Guujaaw also stopped in Morley on their way out to the Rockies from Calgary, where a powwow was being held.”There were hundreds of people in beautiful colourful costumes,” he said. Coincidentally, young people from Morley had recently been on Haida Gwaii and attended the raising of the hospital pole in the spring.

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