Children’s shoes, toys, photographs are being lined up on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery as part of a growing memorial to honour students that died at several former BC residential schools.

The steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery are being used to create this unusual and very touching memorial at the time when more graves near former residential schools are being discovered throughout Canada. We first discovered this memorial late in the evening. The effect was incredible:

One of my intentions during this trip was to visit a Native village. Unfortunately, our itinerary was too limited and because of the pandemic, visitors are not allowed to enter villages and areas belonging to our First Nations.

Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, BC.

Replicas and reconstruction of typical buildings belonging to the Tribes of the Northwest can be found in some museums. Today, I would like to present the ones we saw in the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver and in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Two Haida houses on the grounds of the Museum of Anthropology at UBC represent a family dwelling and a small mortuary chamber. The poles were constructed by Bill Reid from the Haida nation and Douglas Cranmer, Kwakiutl. In former times, a typical Native village consisted of about 50 such buildings, each housing a dozen or so families.

Thunderbird Park, Royal BC Museum, Victoria BC

Built in the style of a Kwakiutl bighouse, this building in the centre of Victoria was dedicated by potlatch in perpetuity to Mungo Martin and his family clan. It is only opened during ceremonial periods, but can be viewed from the outside at anytime.

The first totem poles appeared in this place in 1940. At that time it was a vacant lot on the corner of Bellevue and Douglas Streets, a site that a year later became known as Thunderbird Park.

Royal BC Museum, Victoria

Please notice the decoration around the entrance to the Kwakiutl House in the Royal BC Museum. It is a supernatural creature called Sisiutl. It is a scaly, double-headed sea serpent with the power to bring both good and evil. It can bring wealth and, when painted over a doorway, it serves as guardian of the house. The two-headed sea serpent is closely associated with war and strength, and with death and revival.

Let us see what is inside the Kwakiutl House:

Thank you for visiting both museums with me today! I hope you are fascinated by the Native art of our Northwest. I am ending this post with totem poles in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Source: Hilary Stewart, Looking at Totem Poles, University of Washington Press.

Pat Kramer, Totem Poles, Heritage House.


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