Society Magazine

375th Anniversary Of Montreal - Unveiling Of A Spectacular Totem Pole Created By Charles Joseph

Posted on the 04 May 2017 by Loup Dargent @loup_dargent

The totem pole is a symbol of reconciliation and commemoration. It embodies a strong sense of the identity and pride of the Kwakiutl Nation of the West Coast of Canada. Joseph's Residential School Totem Pole depicts, from the bottom to the top: the members of the family of the sponsor of the Totem; the cedar ring symbolizing safety; the wild woman responsible for the traditional culture; the killer whale, the guardian of memory; the crow representing the alliance of Church and State; the bear for its strength and wisdom; the Arctic fox, the witness of the past; the Kulus, the great black ravens that according to the legend created the islands of the West Coast of Canada by dropping pebbles into the ocean; and at the top the two-headed snake with its wings unfurled in the shape of a cross.

Charles Joseph states: "Presenting this pole is for all Canadians, not just residential school survivors. This is my reconciliation, and my story is 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 Nathalie Bondil, the Museum's Director General and Chief Curator, "We are deeply moved today to unveil this new totem pole by Charles Joseph in the context of the celebrations. Only six of the First Nations of the West Coast ever carved these works... and there are even fewer today because the technical and artistic skills required to make them are so demanding. Traditionally the gigantic witnesses to their history perpetuated the story of important events for the Native Peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada estimates that 150,000 children were torn from their families during the past century, complying with the government's assimilation policy. Telling the story of this tragedy through the powerful artistry of one of our leading creators is essential in the perspective of our new century."
"We are very honoured to be a part of this totem raising ceremony here on Kanien'keha:ka territory," says Christine Zachary Deom, Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. "Our territory has always been a place of gathering and exchange and we are very pleased to see these bridges being built with Montreal, the Kwakiutl Nation, and our community. Our people have been eager to have their presence and history acknowledged, and this is a great initiative towards reconciliation" she added.
"We salute the involvement of our First Nations artists in making Canadians aware of our history, even of its darkest side, as in the case of the residential schools. I thank Charles Joseph for this work, and above all for its positive consciousness-raising effect. This is a contribution that will help to bring about the reconciliation of our peoples that is so vital", stated Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Quebec-Labrador Assembly of First Nations.
"The Society for the Celebration of Montréal's 375th Anniversary is happy to emphasize the close links that bind together the First Nations peoples and our City. With its over 30,000 Native citizens, Montreal constitutes the largest indigenous community in Quebec. La Balade pour la paix, the flagship project of the official programme for the celebrations of the 375th anniversary, is an ideal expression of the wealth of links between our peoples. The work of the artist Charles Joseph of the Kwakiutl Nation, raised on the ancestral territory of Kanien'keha:ka, is a prime example of the cultural richness of the First Nations and of the ties that bind us", said Alain Gignac, Director General of the the Society for the Celebration of Montréal's 375th Anniversary.
"The City is firmly committed to reconciliation, and our pledge takes on new meaning as we stand before this totem pole and remember the thousands of Aboriginal people who passed through the residential school system. This totem pole reminds us of our present duty, and we are humbled by history. I would like to commend Charles Joseph for creating this work of art and thank all the partners who made its presentation in Montreal possible. As we celebrate Montreal's 375th anniversary, understanding and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples are of vital importance," said Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal.
La Balade pour la Paix -An Open-Air Museum On Sherbrooke Street West between the sections the MMFA/Concordia University - the McCord Museum/McGill University June 5 to October 29, 2017
To learn more about the contribution of the Québec government to Montréal's 375th Anniversary celebrations, click here.
375th Anniversary Montreal Unveiling Spectacular Totem Pole Created Charles Joseph

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