Yukoners will be able to see a newly-unveiled British Columbia totem pole on June 21st in Whitehorse. The pole has been involved in restoration work over the past few years.
A public unveiling of a restored British Columbia Totem Pole is set to occur at 10am on June 21st at the Yukon government Main Administration Building.
The two-year pole restoration project, which was originally carved by Tsimshian Chief William Jeffrey, was originally gifted to Yukon in 1971 by BC to mark the province's 100th year since joining confederation.
The totem pole was originally taken from the government building and put into restoration work with the permission and help of Chief William Jeffrey's family, including granddaughter of the carver Monica Jeffrey who resides in British Columbia.
Monica Jeffrey spoke with CHON-FM about the restoration project and says she was excited when contacted by the Yukon Government asking her to help with the project back in 2016.
"I remember vividly when I was little and he was living in North Vancouver. He always carved a lot of poles in Prince Rupert but he also did a lot of poles and in North Vancouver. This was one of them. He underwent several projects and he did this one that was gifted by the BC government to the Yukon government. I was contacted by the Yukon government regarding this project and it was really exciting."
Totem Pole Conservator Andrew Todd and Carcross/Tagish First Nation Carver Aaron Smarch also worked with the Yukon Government Department of Tourism and Culture to restore the pole, with surface cleaning, applying new paints, protective coatings and repairing damages as some of the work involved in the project.
Jeffrey says this particular pole conveys prominent First Nations culture from northwestern British Columbia.
"The Tsimshian have the different clan systems and that is what my grandfather is trying to represent on this pole. He represents the four different clans to symbolize (on the pole). We have a lot of supernatural beliefs in our histories of origin, and that is what he is portraying in this pole and how they retain the clan system. The four clans he has on the pole are the eagle, wolf, raven and the grizzly. All of them are really important. It's how we identify how the First Nation in northwestern BC identify themselves, through a matralineal line."
Jeffrey highlights the art depicted in the totem pole showcases culture that is passed intergenerationally between families.
"Most times, only the hereditary chiefs, leaders or royal-like families in the community had totem poles. We had our oral histories that were depicted on them. In a sense, this pole being gifted from the BC government to the Yukon government helps to reinstill this ancient tradition that my grandfather really wanted to have revitalized that was almost lost with the banning of the potlatch."
While Jeffrey highlights how totem poles normally aren't restored in many First Nation cultures, she says restoring this pole was an important part of First Nation reconciliation and revitalization efforts.
CHON-FM will have more coverage on this story on our Monday newscast.