Declaration of Spirit

Declaration of Spirit located at the School of Criminology, Saywell Hall. Photo by Reese Muntean
Awaking the Totem, courtesy Jean-Paul Loneau
Photo by Reese Muntean

Title/Date: Declaration of Spirit Pole, 2011
Artist: Men of Ferndale
Culture/Language Group:
Carved red cedar
Credit Line: Centre of Restorative Justice, School of Criminology, SFU
Location:  School of Criminology entrance


Four years after the first cut into the log, the final ceremony for a totem pole honouring Liz Elliott was held at SFU in September 2015. Elliott worked as a criminology professor at SFU, and was a founding director of the SFU Centre for Restorative Justice. Elliott’s close work and dedication to a group of aboriginal inmates at Ferndale Institution inspired them to dedicate a pole to her during the course of her battle with cancer.

The process of carving a totem pole is long and complex, and requires a number of different rituals and ceremonies. The first ceremony occurred on sacred ground at Ferndale where the pole was awakened by removing the first chip. At this time songs and rituals were performed to bring Elliotts spirit and the spirit of the pole together, and to help the carvers do their work well. The second ceremony marked the finishing of the pole, and the third its raising, which took place on Dec. 5, 2011. The fourth ceremony, the naming of the pole, took place in September of 2012 at SFU, while the fifth and final ceremony, a time to give thanks and to set her spirit free, occurred in September 11, 2015.

The Declaration of Spirit pole depicts three figures: a woman, (who represents Elliott); an eagle above her, to give strength and wisdom for her journey; and a hummingbird at the top to lead the way. The hummingbird was Elliott’s only request for the pole, and is an allusion to a favorite parable of hers. In the story, there was a great fire in the forest and all the animals, large and small, ran from it. But, out of all the animals in the forest, the only one that turned around to face the fire was the courageous hummingbird.

Granville Online: Flight of the hummingbird

Additional Information - Declaration of Spirit


Roach, Alison. Totem pole-naming ceremony honours restorative justice activist. Sept. 24, 2012. Web.

Restorative Justice:

Elliot, Elizabeth. 2011. Security, With Care: Restorative Justice and Health Societies. Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishig.