Haida carver puts final touches on UBC reconciliation totem pole
1 year after the pole left Haida Gwaii, James Hart says his work is finally done
Master Haida carver James Hart spent the summer putting the finishing touches on the pole, located near the Forest Sciences Centre at UBC.
"There was stuff I wanted to catch, so I just went back and tweaked everywhere. Bringing it up to snuff, as they'd say," said Hart.
"I couldn't leave it."
A monument to survivors
The 17-metre totem pole is dedicated to survivors of Canada's residential school system.
Under the system, Indigenous children across the country were taken from their families to attend government-funded, church-run boarding schools. The system wasn't completely shut down until 1996.
Though Hart didn't attend residential school himself, he says his work is inspired by countless close friends of his who did.
"They were just torture chambers, those schools," he said. "They weren't there to help, they were there to hurt."
Hart says the pole is already attracting visitors, which means it's doing its job.
"People are coming to see it, and they're talking about it," he said.
"They're starting to learn about [residential schools] more. If they look at this and then they open up a book, then I've done my job."
'I got old on this project'
The pole began life in Haida Gwaii, where it was shaped by a team of six carvers under Hart's direction. In October of 2016, it left Haida Gwaii for Point Grey in Vancouver, and was erected in April of 2017.
Now that Hart has completely finished with the pole, a plaque will be unveiled on Thursday. Hart says there are also plans to create a bronze skirting piece in collaboration with local artists.
Hart says the nature of the project made it hard to work on — but worthwhile.
"I got old on this project," he said. "[But] it's a good thing that Canada is doing this."
"We've got to figure out ... where we can work on those wrongs, because the effects are still there, and then bring it forward to where we're working together on all this stuff, and moving forward."
With files from Caroline Chan.