A totem pole arrived in Prince George on Tuesday evening, bound for Edmonton.
The pole, carved by Haida carver Ben Davidson, is being accompanied from Masset, Haida Gwaii to Edmonton by about 30 bicyclists.
“I was on a bike tour a few years ago,” says Edmonton Journal columnist Nick Lees, as the group stopped at the Gathering Place at UNBC for a meal, “and when we got to Haida Gwaii, I saw these magnificent totem poles.
“I knew we needed to get one of those to Stollery.”
Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton is for children with life-threatening illnesses. Lees thought a totem based on Haida beliefs could serve as an inspiration for the children and their families.
Davidson says the totem incorporates both Haida culture and the idea of it being in a children’s hospital.
“We had a young girl who had passed away in Haida Gwaii shortly before I started working on the totem, and I asked her family if I could honour her with it.”
Three butterflies, designed and made by Haida Gwaii parents, will be set on top of the totem when it reaches Edmonton.
“There’s an eagle on the top of the totem,” Davidson says, “and it has a heart between its talons. The black paint on the totem had some of the ashes of the young girl mixed in, and the family helped paint that portion, in memory of her.”
The totem also has a mother bear and cub and a bison.
“The bison is not part of Haida culture,” Davidson said, “but it is part of the culture where the totem will be, and I wanted to include that.”
The riders left Haida Gwaii on June 16 and plan to reach Edmonton July 1, Canada Day.
The cyclists have bee doing fundraising to pay for the cost of the totem and programs at the Stollery.