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Aboriginal friendship centre to raise totem pole for missing and murdered indigenous women

Coast Salish artists William and Joel Good craft totem pole for Tillicum Lelum centre
A totem pole will be raised at Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre to honour murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. (Photo submitted)

A memorial totem pole will be raised in Nanaimo that will honour murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre advised in a press release that it is close to being able to announce a date for a pole-raising ceremony at the Tenth Street location. Community members who have lost loved ones will be invited to participate in the ceremony.

“The parents of missing and murdered women and girls need to know that their children are still thought about,” said Grace Elliott-Nielsen, executive director of Tillicum Lelum, in the release. “Their spirit will always be here, and their families can always know that.”

The totem pole has been crafted by Coast Salish father-and-son artists William and Joel Good and features an eagle with wide-spread wings and a woman with wide-spread arms. The totem’s base will be reserved for memorials for women and girls. The totem pole was carved from a log that had been reserved to create a canoe for a sacred journey, the press release noted.

“It took us a long time to find the right log because of logging strikes and problems within the forestry industry. We couldn’t find one big enough to properly acknowledge the women and girls, and their families,” Elliott-Nielsen said. “So when Willy and Joel agreed to carve the totem out of the sacred log they’d set aside for their canoe, it was like an in-depth spiritual awakening.”

Tillicum Lelum plans to hold an annual ceremony, led by elders, to commemorate murdered and missing women and other victims of violence and abuse and “serve as reminder to us all about the impacts of colonization and residential schools on Indigenous women and their place in society,” the release noted.

The federal Women and Gender Equality department provided funding for the totem pole and the pole-raising ceremony.

For information about arranging for a loved one’s name to be included on the base of the totem pole, contact Elliott-Nielsen at 250-753-8291.

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