That was the day that UBC hosted the raising of the Reconciliation Pole, a very special totem pole carved from an 800-year-old red cedar from Haida Gwaii.
The ceremony took place on the Main Mall at the Vancouver campus near Agronomy Road, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.
The totem pole was designed and carved by Haida master artist, James Hart, and was jointly commissioned by the Audain Foundation and UBC to be a permanent fixture on campus.
The totem tells the story of residential school students and symbolizes the path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Weighing in at 26,000 pounds, this massive piece of art includes 60,000 copper nails pounded flat into the surface by residential school survivors, volunteers, and school children to represent indigenous children who died at residential schools across the country between 1890 and 1996.
It was installed in a traditional Haida manner with more than three thousand people in attendance.
The ceremony was a solemn occasion and needed to be carried out in a way that was culturally sensitive and relevant. Protech needed to work closely with the University representatives, the Indigenous leaders, and the other workers on site. The organizers had requested that the totem pole be raised by the traditional method of pulling on ropes, and they wanted hundreds of people to be involved in the actual pulling.
Pro-Tech was committed to helping make the event meaningful, but, understandably, safety was a huge concern as well. With thousands of people watching and hundreds pulling, there was an obvious need for careful planning and extreme caution to ensure that the pole was raised safely and without incident.
Pro-Tech engineered a procedure that would allow the totem pole to be raised in a way that featured human strength and involvement and yet met safety standards. BEL Contracting was asked to prepare the site at UBC by excavating a hole for the base of the totem pole and placing piles of gravel and rocks to be used as part of the ceremony and backfill. We assessed the requirements of the totem pole itself and strategized the safest and most meaningful method of installation. We calculated that it would require 32,000 lbs of pull force and over 3500 feet of rope. We assembled the necessary equipment, organized the site, and gathered the personnel to make it happen.
After numerous emotional speeches that conveyed the meaning and significance of the ceremony, hundreds of participants pulled on the ropes and the pole was raised safely and without incident to its vertical position. The raising took approximately ten minutes, at which time the ropes were locked in place and backfilling was completed.
Today, the pole fittingly looks out over the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, which provides survivors and their families with access to the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Centre also gives UBC students and visitors ways to understand the history and lasting effects of Indian residential schools.
On the day the Reconciliation Pole was raised, Santa Ono, the President of UBC said, “I am so grateful to all of you for being here on this extraordinary day. This is truly a day to celebrate and to remember. Thank you again for being here and for joining us in this historic event.”
At ProTech, we felt privileged, as well, to take part in the event, and to play the role we played.
Pro-Tech and NorLand:
ProTech Industrial Movers is part of the newly formed NorLand Industrial Services Group, which is focused on delivering integrated solutions for a wide range of complex industrial projects. As a group of companies, we are well equipped with an exclusive combination of services that include demolition, engineering, specialized rigging and moving, installation, maintenance, and construction management. As our reputation for safety and service continues to grow, more and more industrial clients like the University of British Columbia are trusting the NIS Group to provide complete solutions to their biggest challenges.
NorLand Industrial Services Group is a part of NorLand Limited.