Photo Credit: Chimp Photo Club
Stanley Park, Brockton Point
BC’s most visited tourist attraction, Brockton Point is home to nine totem poles, carved by a variety of Indigenous artists. Despite not being a part of traditional Coast Salish culture, totem poles have been brought to Stanley Park by settlers since the early 20th century.
During the 1920s, a “totem pole preservation movement” by settlers worked to protect the poles from being taken by or sold to Americans. Totem poles were viewed as signature symbols of Canadian identity, and settlers sought to protect them from theft and wear. Interestingly, this was during the same period that the Potlatch Ban (1885-1951) banned the potlatch ceremony (during which totem poles were raised), and the government was seizing indigenous cultural items (including totem poles).
The Stanley Park collection of totem poles began at Lumberman’s arch in the 1920s.
In June 1924, the park board purchased four totem poles from Alert Bay. They arrived in Stanley Park and were erected near Lumberman’s Arch. More poles from Haida Gwaii and River’s Inlet soon joined the collection to celebrate the City’s 1936 Golden Jubilee. Ironically, this indigenous art was brought to and displayed at the site of what was once the impressive Coast Salish village site of X̱wáýx̱way. X̱wáýx̱way was inhabited for more than 3000 years, until the majority of the villagers were killed by smallpox, and the remainder were eventually made to leave by settlers,
In 1963, the poles were moved to Brockton Point. The poles there today are replicas and replacements of the original totems, which were sent to various museums for preservation or (in the case of the original Skedans Mortuary pole) returned to their places of origin.
Three beautifully carved, red cedar portals welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre (built in 2001) and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Their form represents the traditional slant roof style of Coast Salish architecture. The gateways show the history and thriving modern culture of Coast Salish people. Constructed over three years and installed in 2008, the gateways were created by Coast Salish artist Susan Point, in collaboration with Coast Salish Arts; Vancouver Storyscapes; The Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations; and the Vancouver Park Board.
The totem poles at Brockton Point do not represent traditional, Coast Salish Culture (totem poles were not traditionally carved by Coast Salish peoples), but the current poles at Brockton Point have been carved by artists from various nations, including Squamish, Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Nisga’a, and Nuu-chah-nulth carvers. An additional pole, the ‘Children of the World’ totem pole is located in the Plaza at Stanley Park Junction. It was carved by Sto:lo carver Francis Horne in 1991.
Please see the ‘Gallery’ tab on this page for photographs and descriptions of each pole.
The poles are listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register as ‘Totems, Petroglyphs, Canoes (Yakdzi Myth, Wakias, Nhe-is-bik)’.
Vancouver Park Board website; stanleyparkvan.com; Renisa Mawani 2003: "Imperial Legacies (Post)Colonial Identities: Law, Space and the Making of Stanley Park, 1859-2001"; Renisa Mawani 2004: "From Colonialism to Multiculturalism? Totem Poles, Tourism and National Identity in Vancouver's Stanley Park";