Totem blessing begins restoration

November 1, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell performs a blessing on the totems prior to their removal from Naheeno Park.       

Five totem poles erected more than three decades ago in SFU’s Naheeno Park have been removed and will be restored and relocated on the Burnaby campus. The poles, carved by the late Tsimshian artist Ray Wesley, were once a landmark in the park, a popular location in the university’s early years.

Over time, trees and brush filled in the area and limited access to the poles, leaving them weathered, worn and forgotten. Barbara Winter, curator of SFU’s Museum of Ethnology and Archaeology, says the poles have lasting cultural value. "We want to bring these works of art out where they can be enjoyed by the community."

Jackie Timothy, a local carver based at SFU, oversaw the removal operation. Timothy carved a pole on campus in 2006, entitled West meets East, which was later sent to the Mohawk Nation.

The poles will be stored on campus and will be dried in a controlled manner — a process which could take up to four months. Further conservation of the poles will be done in a minimalist manner.

"Poles are meant to naturally return to the earth," says Winter. "We do not want to interrupt this process with harsh chemical treatments, but will slow the process down, letting the poles be enjoyed for a longer period of time."
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