Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If the Haida wish, a totem pole may soon return home...

Perhaps one of the most photographed totem poles in the world, the one which until recent times was found outside the Jasper, Alberta railway station, could soon be returned to the Islands from which it came.

Parks Canada has begun discussions with the Council of Haida Nations to see if they wish for the return of the pole dating back to the 1870's and known as the Jasper Raven Pole. It is believed to have been created by the Masset carver Simeon Stiltla, who passed away in 1883, he was a renowned artist on Haida Gwai, part of what has been described as the golden age of Haida art.

The history of the pole in question is a fascinating bit of Northwest history, as outlined on the Globe and Mail's website, the article provides a step back into time on Haida Gwaii, when a number of the Haida's works of art were taken from the Islands and either destroyed or shipped off to museums around the world.

The pole in question was transported east in 1914 by the then Grand Trunk Railroad, the railway deciding to send the pole off to it's newly opened station in Jasper, where it has been the background for tourist photos for over a century. It's deteriorating condition gave Parks Canada cause for worry for the fate of the pole and of those that may be viewing it, so they took it down and put it into storage, hoping it seems to return it to Haida Gwaii.

If the Council of the Haida don't want it back, it may end up in the Nation's Capital at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, or at any other museum which may show interest.
Wherever the pole may end up, it will require a fair amount of attention to return it to some of its past glory, the 130 plus years have not been kind to the Raven pole with much work now required to refurbish this item from that era of Haida artifacts.
Jasper Booster-- Landmark on last legs
Photo above of the Raven Pole from the Parks Canada website

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