Photographer's Note

"A West Coast totem pole that had become a Rocky Mountain icon but was removed from display in Jasper National Park last spring due to safety concerns, will be replaced with a new work of Haida art.

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced Sunday that Ottawa will spend between $250,000 and $300,000 to commission Haida artisans to create a new landmark for the Alberta townsite.

“This is a symbol that has been associated with the community for over 93 years,” said Mr. Prentice.

He hopes to see the new pole in Jasper within a year to take the place of the crumbling 12-metre-tall totem pole, carved in the 1870s from what was likely a 500-year-old red cedar tree. The historic pole properly belongs back in the British Columbia community of Masset and will be repatriated, he added.

The totem pole was crafted on the Queen Charlotte Islands, also known as the Haida Gwaii, and is believed to be the work of Simeon Stiltla (1833-1883) a master carver who plied his hand during what later became known as the golden age of Haida art. It initially served as a memorial dedicated to a dead chief.

One Haida art expert has described the totem pole, which is lovingly called the Jasper Raven Pole because of the raven perched on top, a “national treasure.” George MacDonald, director of the Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies at Simon Fraser University, also placed a potential auction-block value on the relic at seven figures.

The totem pole had become a local and tourist favourite, but why a West Coast artifact would find itself in Alberta has always been a curiosity.

As the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway opened its route through the mountains to Prince Rupert, B.C., in the early 20th century, it acquired totem poles for promotional purposes. Although the purchase date is not clear, the raven pole arrived in Jasper in 1916 after leaving Masset the year before.

A section of untouched wood from the top had been removed, which cut down its original 18-metre height.

It moved several times within Jasper, but its last relocation in 1954 placed it on guard of the historic train station. Parks Canada took responsibility for the totem pole in 2000 when it purchased the town's rail stop from Canadian National Railway.

But weather had battered the beautiful pole. Time had stolen its structural integrity. Major work would need to be done to restore it to its original splendour. It has been repainted several times. A creosote pole was even affixed to give it additional support.

The federal agency determined it was beyond repair and in April 2009, removed it as a safety precaution."

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Additional Photos by Chris Jules (ChrisJ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 13490 W: 1026 N: 26357] (127555)
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