Jasper’s Historic Raven Totem Pole
By Amanda May
Because of Jasper National Park‘s position along the early Canadian railroad, the town has been the proud owner of a magnificent Haida totem pole for nearly a century. If you’ve ever been to the Jasper train station, you’ve surely seen the towering colorful work of art.
The Haida people were the indigenous population of the northwest coast of North America. A master carver designed the original pole in the Queen Charlotte Islands sometime in the late 1800s (1870-1880). Experts say the large raven figure symbolizes the pole’s original owner’s family’s membership within the Raven clan of Haida society.
In Haida culture, totem poles honor tribal leaders and families. Jasper’s Raven Totem Pole features figures representing long-standing Haida myths about “frog woman,” “grizzly bear mother,” “old woman” and “bullhead.”
When what was known as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway opened a northern rail route across the Canadian Rockies in 1914, a feature of the route was fine Haida totem poles that were acquired by the rail company to display at the Jasper and Prince Rupert stations.
Jasper’s Raven Totem pole stood tall near the railway station for more than 94 years, but was taken down on April 3, 2009 because of weather and structural damages.
Conservation specialists tried to save the massive wooden carving, but it was determined that it was beyond repair and actually posed a public safety hazard.
It is now, almost 100 years after the original totem pole was carved that the Haida Nation is partnering with Parks Canada to construct a new totem pole. The planned delivery of the pole is the summer of 2010.
A traveling tour will celebrate the repatriation of the old pole to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, and the installation of the new pole in Jasper.
Visit Parks Canada for more information about the tour this summer with VIA Rail Canada.