Carved from a 1,000-year-old cedar tree, the Survivors Totem Pole was raised in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Saturday as a symbol of survival and healing from social and racial injustice.
The pole was raised in a potlatch ceremony with Coast Salish and Haida protocols and formally witnessed by special guests including Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver Park Board vice-chair Erin Shum and more than a dozen matriarchs, elders and hereditary chiefs.
It will stand at Pigeon Park.
The pole is a three-year collaboration between DTES advocates, First Nations, members of the LGBTQ community, along with Japanese, Chinese and South Asian survivors of racism.
"We are here to honour the survivors of the DTES, the survivors of colonialism, gentrification or poverty," said Audrey Siegl with the Musqueam First Nation.
"It's a historic day, acknowledging the reconciliation and horrible tragedies of our past that many have suffered in the Aboriginal community; to acknowledge it and look to a brighter future," said Vancouver Mayor Gergor Robertson.
"As a First Nations woman, I see a lot of pain that has plagued our nations of First Nations and Indigenous communities," said Linnea Dick who was at the ceremony.
"Someone very near to my heart, my sister was a lost Indigenous woman and we got her back, and I also put a prayer out that all missing Indigenous women come home and even if that means the lost person must find themselves and heal.
"I hope this pole will encourage that."
with files from Tina Lovgreen.