A totem pole which greeted ferry travelers in Horseshoe Bay for 56 years has returned to the North Island.
The four-metre western red cedar pole was carved for Canada’s centennial in 1967 by Tony Hunt Sr. It features a bear in the Haida style and was on display outside the terminal entrance for decades.
Last year Mehran Zargham, who was in charge of terminal maintenance for Horseshoe Bay, noticed some rot and wear on the totem pole that raised concerns about safety and stability. BC Ferries hired an engineering firm to design an attachment to hold it in place while it searched for a long-term solution for the pole.
BC Ferries reached out to Hunt’s family. Tony Sr. had passed away, but his brother, Stanley Hunt, is a master carver and was thrilled with the opportunity to bring the pole home to Fort Rupert.
“I just find that amazing,” says Hunt. “Just the thought of being able to restore our brother’s totem pole is a huge honour. Tony and I were really close. It’s just a huge honour for me and, I know, for our family that we would get to see and help one of Tony’s totem poles be restored and be on display again. I was excited about it.
“I’m going to bring it back to as good a life as I can,” he adds. “It is pretty old.”
Bringing the pole home was an engineering feat, taking months of preparation. It was also handled with cultural sensitivity and respect.
“From the beginning of our planning, we understood the importance of respecting the totem pole,” says Zargham. “It’s not just a wooden structure, it’s cultural heritage, it was something to be respected, and we had to ensure that proper procedures and processes were taken care of for moving it.”
Based on Stanley Hunt’s advice, crews knew they could not let the pole touch the ground or even a tree while suspended, out of respect.
It was transported late last month. Hunt plans to restore the pole and put it back on display beside where his brother, the man who made it, is laid to rest.
Hunt recently completed a ceremonial tour of western Canada with his own pole, a six-metre-tall carved monument to Indigenous children who attended residential schools.