Two of the iconic totem poles in Victoria’s Thunderbird Park are coming down.
Thunderbird Park, next to the Royal BC Museum, is home to a longhouse and a dozen poles from local First Nations.
Two of the poles, both replicas of poles with historical significance, are to come down for safety measures after recent inspections found that they had a high risk of falling.
“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 first pole to come down is the Kwakwaka’wakw house post replica, built in 1954, followed by the Haida mortuary pole replica built in 1955. Both of these poles were built by Mungo Martin with assistance from his son, David Martin, and Henry Hunt.
After a wide consultation process, the Royal BC Museum and local First Nations devised an appropriate way to take down the poles and repatriate them with their communities.
The poles will be moved to Fort Rupert where Chief David Mungo Knox of the Kwakiutl First Nation, the great-grandson of Mungo Martin, will oversee the poles’ journey.
The Haida mortuary pole will stay in Fort Rupert to stay as a reference for carvers while Knox continues discussions with the Haida clan.
The Kwakwaka’wakw house post will go to Quatsino, where members of the Quatsino First Nation will decide how to lay it to rest.
The Kwakwaka’wakw house post will come down at 9 a.m. on Friday May 31, while the Haida pole will come down in the first week of June.
Presently, the museum has no verified plans for the space after the poles are removed.