An 11-metre totem pole meant to help former residential school students heal will be erected on Main Street in Whitehorse over the weekend.
Master carver Wayne Price from Haines, Alaska, started carving the pole about five months ago, and says the project was quickly embraced by young carvers from the Northern Cultural Expressions Society in Whitehorse.
He says each wood chip from the totem’s carving represents a life affected by residential school. The wood chips have been signed by former students, family and friends of those that have died.
The wood chips will be burned and the ashes placed in a bentwood box to become part of the totem pole.
"We put the ashes inside the box and seal it into the totem and by that act what we’re doing is we’re sending all those children back to their mom."
The totem pole will be erected in downtown Whitehorse. The co-ordinator of the Northern Cultural Expressions Society's carving program said that location makes a statement for First Nations people.
"For hundreds of years, we were not allowed to practise the culture, the art, the traditional skills and the language," said Colin Teramura.
"After a hundred years of repression and oppression, right in the heart of the city stands a totem pole."
The society received a $50,000 grant from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the project.
The totem pole will be erected Saturday morning at 10 a.m. next to the White Pass building.