By Dorota Kozinska

The title of the totem pole references the artist's childhood and is a tribute to the First Nations children who were taken away from their families and sent to the residential schools run by religious orders.

The artist spoke during the unveiling ceremony, and his words were poignant: "This pole is for all Canadians, not just residential school survivors. This is my reconciliation, and my story on the pole. The story is not just about Charles Joseph, it's about everyone who went through it. I need to tell the story in this form, but it is about survivors from across Canada."

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, some 150,000 children were torn from their families during the past century as part of the government's assimilation policy.

The totem pole is a valuable artifact, as there are only six West Coast First Nations who carve such poles, and the artistic and technical skills required are immensely demanding.

 

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