The D’zel Kant Friendship Centre raised the Brother Pole on Nov. 17 at its community hall on Third Avenue in honour of the murdered and missing indigenous men, boys, LGBTQ-plus persons, and survivors of residential schools.
The ceremony included blessings from community elders and drumming songs to welcome the pole into the community, and an explanation of what figures are on the pole and what they mean by the carver. The pole was then raised and eagle down feathers were used to “blow life” into the Brother Pole.
“I wanted a space where our families could go, to find a little bit of healing, a little bit of peace, and a little bit of honouring their loved ones,” carver Mike Dangeli said.
“For me, this is my 27th totem pole. My wife Dr. Mique’l-Dangeli, also helped work on this totem pole. So we had the balance of both male and female on this brother pole.”
Dangeli, an artist with Nisga’a, Tsimshian, Tlingit, and Tsetsaut heritage, has been working on the pole since summer, and explained the symbols to those at the ceremony.
The following are excerpts from his remarks:
The bottom figure is a box. It’s our teachings that the box is our box of treasures, where we hold all of our ceremonial masks or regalia, but also our everyday objects or everyday things of food and clothing, we even cooked in the boxes.
On the sides are the copper shields, and on there is the red hand. That’s my wife’s hand, and that represents our murdered and missing women.
How we are in the north are matrilineal and we honour our women as our life makers and the centre of our culture, our ways of knowing and being.
My wife and I wanted to make a statement saying that our women need to be held up, just like we hold our copper shields and masks and other ceremonial beings. We need to hold our women up, specifically now with all the sadness, and those who have been affected by the murdered and missing women. But there are also girls, men, boys, and LGBTQ plus that have gone missing as well, that is not often talked about.
The next figures represent our residential school survivors. They represent the families, they represent the us as people who are living in this time, to make sure to show the children in the adults. On the red road of healing, many adults do not feel the child inside of them anymore. It was taken away.
So the bodies (on the totem) are a little smaller, showing that they were still children inside, were still growing and represent us as survivors of colonization. We have had to learn and relearn our culture and our ways of knowing and being. So sometimes we’re children when it comes to our ways of knowing and being. It’s a reminder that we need to be gentle with each other because we’re all growing. We’re all growing at different levels and different at different times.
On the faces are the face paint of the four clans, the eagle, the Raven, the killer whale, and the wolf. I did the four clans of my people because I figured those clans were pretty much universal up and down the coast, but I wanted to show the different peoples.
Above them is our chief, our grandfathers, our fathers, our dads, our uncles, our men.
The grandmother pole in Terrace honors our grandmothers, our matrilineal side, this (Brother Pole), honours our paternal side, to decolonize ourselves to find balance, we need to lift up and come together in a balance of both male and feminine power.
The power and knowledge of our people respecting and honouring our matrilineal side, but also honouring and respecting the paternal side for us amongst my people. The paternal side lifts up the maternal side, and the matrilineal side, and so it’s really important to have that balance.
I think we’ve been unbalanced as a people for far too long. Many of us are working to create that balance even within ourselves both male and feminine power. So it was important to be able to do this figure just like the grandmother.
This chief is wearing a button robe and on there I have wings showing that it could be any clan. Every clan has a connection to a winged animal, a winged being.
But also the fact that we’re spreading our wings and becoming strong again, as our people take flight.
“The mirrors represent buttons and that reminds you, someone is always watching, and your reflection and whatever we’re showing on our face can be reflected back to us. Meaning the energy that we put out is the energy that we get back. So to remember to be kind to each other, to remember to be loving so that we receive kindness and love back.
And on top of what the chief is wearing, is our crown.
He’s wearing a crown showing the wealth of our people. On the very top of his crown, they call a crown chakra or crown powerpoint. This is showing us our balance in ways of knowing and being.
The one thing that we did with the Grandmother pole and hope this pole will come to be, is that it became a safe space for families to come and mourn as they didn’t have headstones for their murdered or missing. So it was really important to rebuild to create that space. And so this becomes a safe and sacred space, and the more of those safe and sacred spaces in the land that we claim back. To create those safe spaces the more of them, the stronger our people become.