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Totem Poles in Stanley Park

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The nine totem poles at Brockton Point are British Columbia’s most visited tourist attraction.

The collection began in the 1920s at Lumberman’s Arch when the park board bought four totems from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island. In celebration of the 1936 Golden Jubilee, more totems were brought from Haida Gwaii. In the mid 1960s, the totem poles were moved to Brockton Point. Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation carved the ninth and most recent totem pole, which was added to Brockton Point in 2009. Coast Salish artist Susan Point carved the three beautiful red cedar portals that welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people.

Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly Western Red Cedar, by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. The word totem is derived from the Ojibwe word odoodem, which means “his kinship group.”

Few examples of poles carved before 1900 exist today because of decay in the rainforest environment. The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver have a few examples, dating as far back as 1880. While eighteenth century accounts of European explorers along the coast indicate that poles existed prior to 1800, they were smaller and few in number than in subsequent decades.

 

 

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