Revisiting Our Totem Pole Ceremony

Date 12 Jun, 2023

Our building at 320 East Hastings is currently being demolished and we’re feeling a little nostalgic. Just a little over a year ago, we were moving our programs out of our old building to prepare for hazardous material removal and demolition. Part of that preparation was safely moving the totem pole that was in our dining hall to a temporary location.

This day was very special to us. It’s unusual to take down a totem pole in order to re-raise it, so this was a very unique ceremony. With National Indigenous Peoples Day coming up (June 21st), we wanted to share one way that we got to celebrate Indigenous work and culture.

On May 20, 2022, First United staff worked together to move the totem pole that had been living in the dining hall at 320 East Hastings to the garage of our administrative office. The totem pole was carved by Bernie Williams (Skundaal), of the Haida Gwaii Nation, and other First Nations carvers in 2010. It was a gift for those experiencing homelessness in the Downtown Eastside, and a way to remember the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people.

Here is a short excerpt from last year’s First Things First Summer Newsletter, detailing the Totem Pole Ceremony:

On January 10, 2010, the pole was raised in our dining hall and unveiled by Elders and Chiefs of the Coast Salish Territory and of the Haida Gwaii Nation. Twelve years later, on May 20, 2022, Bernie Williams helped guide us in taking it down before the building at 320 East Hastings is demolished. Surrounded by a circle of staff, and members of her family, Bernie shared memories of the work done all those years ago. Her nephew John drummed and sang the Coast Salish anthem, a song taught to him by his father. Bernie then called on staff to take the totem pole to its new, temporary location.

Read the full story “Carved With Courage, Moved With Care”


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