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Salish Bear Totem reinstalled in time for T&R Day

Just in time for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Salish Bear Totem was returned to the Malahat Summit.

The totem was removed for restoration last July after it was lit on fire in an act of vandalism – with the words “one statue – one totem” written underneath. This was believed to be in retaliation for the removal of a statue depicting British explorer James Cook that was torn down by protestors in Victoria earlier that week.

Malahat Totem Pole after hit by an arsonist on July 2, 2021 – Photo Courtesy of Shawnigan Lake RCMP

In a private ceremony Thursday, the totem was reinstalled at the site where it had been since 1966. It had been carved by Stan Modeste who created it to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the joining of the Colony of Vancouver Island with the Colony of British Columbia.

Modeste was Chief of Cowichan Tribes for two terms in the 1970s. He passed away in 1981. His family attended the reinstallation ceremony.

“Today’s ceremony was healing for our family members after last year’s hateful act directed at the iconic totem carved by our father, the late Stan Modeste,” says the Modeste family. “He used his talents to share with the world Quw’utsun culture and teachings around the sacredness of nature. We are pleased to see the Salish Bear restored to its intended beauty.”

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Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum says historic injustices and ongoing racist attacks weigh heavily on the community.

“Quw’utsun people are taught by our Elders to help one another and work together for the good of all,” says Hwitsum. “It has been greatly appreciated to see and experience the support of the larger community for the repair and reinstallation of Stan Modeste’s Salish Bear Totem.”

It’s the second time the totem was refurbished, having just undergone the process in 2015 after 50 years of general wear and tear.

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