British Columbia

Haida reconciliation totem pole heads to Vancouver

Haida carver Jim Hart says the giant red cedar commemorates those who lost their lives in residential schools.

Carver Jim Hart says the giant red cedar commemorates those who lost their lives in residential schools

Haida carver Jim Hart's reconciliation pole is lifted onto a crane from his home in Old Massett, a village on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. The flatbed truck carried the pole to a barge which was then shipped to Vancouver. (George Baker/CBC)

A Haida master carver has created a totem pole to commemorate the lives of children sent to residential schools.

Though carver Jim Hart did not attend residential school himself, he has seen its harms first hand.

"My grandfather, my great uncles and my great aunts ... my friends. I've seen them and the effects of all this and how we had to live with all this. We still have people who are still hurting quite badly over it all," he said.

Nearly 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to leave their families and attend the national program from 1883-1996.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission condemned the program as 'cultural genocide' in its 2015 report.

Carver Jim Hart (R) watches as his reconciliation totem pole is loaded onto a truck. (George Baker/CBC)

Hart was inspired to create the totem pole to keep the memory of residential school history alive.

"It's part of Canada's history, not just our history ... It's not like you can say this is enough time spent on this, let's move on," he said.  "It's about understanding and then moving forward ... it's about respect."

Daphne White (L) watches Deborah Wilson hammer in nails onto the pole. They represent the children who lost their lives at residential schools. (George Baker/CBC)

Daphne White, another member of the Haida community, participated by hammering nails into the pole in memory of those who didn't survive residential school.

"Some of the children didn't come back. They passed away and their families never saw them again," she explained.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented 6,000 deaths among the children who attended residential schools, adding there were most likely more.

Will be raised in March

The pole was originally scheduled to be raised at the University of British Columbia campus on Oct.15, but the event has been delayed until March.

The Musqueam band council, whose traditional lands include UBC, said the delay was because it, Hart, and the university are in meetings to find an appropriate location for the totem pole and to make sure proper protocols are followed.

With files from George Baker and Daybreak North

To listen to the segment, click on the link labelled Haida carver Jim Hart carves a reconciliation pole