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Theodora Wesley, wife of the late Tsimshian carver Ray Wesley, admires one of her husband’s two totem poles that now adorn the entrance to SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples.

New home for totem poles

August 5, 2010

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SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples (OAP) held a celebration July 22 to mark the installation of two historic totem poles outside the OAP office entrance.

The poles, carved by the late Tsimshian artist Ray Wesley, were originally erected more than three decades ago in SFU’s Naheeno Park, a popular location in the university’s early years. Over time, brush filled in the area and limited access to the poles, leaving them weathered, worn and forgotten until 2007 when they were removed for restoration and relocation on the Burnaby campus.

The carver’s wife Theodora Wesley, daughter Debbie Sisson and friends of the family attended the installation ceremony, which featured a recounting the poles’ history and their move indoors by Barbara Winter, curator of SFU’s Museum of Ethnology and Archaeology, and OAP director William Lindsay.

The event also featured remarks by VP-academic Jon Driver and Julie Saito, director of the SFU Alumni Association, which funded the restoration, as well a celebration song by Gary George, First Nations Student Life Coordinator. http://at.sfu.ca/Bclrvz

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Jacqueline Bessette

I was fortunate enough to aid in the restoration of these two totem poles during a Work Study program under Dr. Winter's supervision in the Fall 2009 semester. It was a pleasure and honour to be a part of the project and I look forward to seeing the poles fully restored when I return to SFU in Fall 2010.

Rosemary Cornell, Professor of Molecular Biology

I am relieved to hear that the totem poles are safe. I was dismayed when they disappeared from Naheeno Park a few years ago, and have missed them ever since. The poles in their natural setting were a frequent destination for me and a few others over many years, including my children and their friends. One former PhD student in Molecular Biology composed a portion of his thesis in the company of those poles. I once escorted an entire pre-school (Snake-Hill) in May of 1993 through the brush, picking salmon berries on the way, down the ravine and up the other side to the ridge where with great joy, the 3 and 4-year old children discovered the hidden poles. I was always thankful to Ray Wesley for putting bear, frog, wolf, and raven in a place where they seemed to fit in so well. Although it's great that many more people can see them now, I hope someday they will be returned to the forest.

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