The Christian Science Monitor

Tired of waiting for Canada, native peoples reclaim their culture

When carver Tim Paul searched for a cedar tree to build a totem pole honoring the preservation of Canada’s indigenous languages, he and his team chose a 75-foot windfall in the forests of Vancouver Island that was rotted throughout.

On a recent day along the harbor of Port Alberni, the group mills the 800-year-old trunk before it can stand strong and sustainably – a metaphor for the state of indigenous culture. “We’re doing this to save what we have left,” says Mr. Paul, who sprinkles sentences with Nuu-chah-nulth words but does not speak his native language fluently, due to being forced into state-regulated boarding school at age 6.

Commissioned by the First Nations Education Foundation to celebrate the United Nations’ 2019 Year of Indigenous Languages, the pole will be erected at the University of Victoria this fall. It will mark a public space intended to generate conversation about how indigenous language was silenced by residential schooling, says Scott Jeary, executive director of the First Nations Education Foundation in British Columbia. “It’s a recognition of what [Canada’s] real history is.”

Mr. Paul, whose work has been shown around the world, is decorating the pole with what he

A dark history for indigenous peoples‘A lot of baggage to the word’Reconciliation in the communitySeeing oneself

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