It has stood in Hadden Park, in front of Vancouver’s Maritime Museum since 1958, but the iconic Centennial Totem Pole has come down.
Temporarily, that is.
The pole, carved by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Chief Mungo Martin, has been removed for restoration.
Concerns about the pole’s future have been on the radar for years. Back in 2014, the city stabilized it with a buttress and ring of compression pads over concerns about rot at the base and fears it could blow over in a powerful storm.
On Friday, the pole was taken down and mounted on a truck for overnight transport to a restoration team.
Mungo Martin’s great-grandson was there to observe the operation.
“Just to be a part of this is unreal, knowing what my great-grandfather did to teach the whole coast who we are and what we do and how we do it,” said David Mungo Knox.
WATCH: (Aired Apr. 1 2017) UBC honours victims of residential schools with Reconciliation Totem Pole
That’s because the Canadian government prohibited the practice of carving totem poles along with potlatches from the end of the 19th century until 1951.
“It was lost, it was banned. So all the carvers died off, but he kept on doing this,” Knox said.
“He pursued, and they went underground to still be able to do what we do today. Thank God, because we are who we are, we’re still kicking.”
Mark Friesen, project manager with Pro Tech Industrial Movers, said planning for the sensitive moving operation had been underway for more than a year.
Friesen said crews built a strong back to support the pole and prevent it from bending or cracking while being moved.
The City of Vancouver describes the Centennial Totem Pole as “one of the great cultural artifacts of Canada.”
It is one of a pair of sister poles, the second of which was given as a gift to Queen Elizabeth. That pole now stands in Windsor Great Park, in Berkshire England.
Knox said he hopes once craftsmen have their way with the pole, it will stand for generations to come.
“It’s going to get refurbished and it’s going to be looked at for decades and decades,” he said.