Greetings and welcome to the honouring of Bill Reid through the raising of this heraldic pole. It feels so good to be here today
with so many of our friends and relatives from Haida Gwaii to witness this event, the raising of the pole that was designed and carved
by Jim Hart with the assistance of Nika Collison, Paul White, Michael Nicoll, and Oliver Bell of Haida Gwaii.
This is what Bill would have called a real family affair. The head carver is Jim Hart who, as you know, has taken the name of Charles
Edenshaw, the legendary carver who was Bill's great-uncle and a major inspiration. Nika, who has apprenticed with Jim, is Bill's
granddaughter. The two grandsons of Bill Reid who live in Haida Gwaii, Walker and Tyson Brown, also learned a lot from the experience.
The raising of this pole brings many memories, particularly those about the raising of Bill's pole in Skidegate, nearly 20 years ago.
It is appropriate that I share with you some of Bill's eloquent writings about totem poles from his book titled, Out of the Silence.
This is what he said:
"These were objects of bright pride, to be admired in the newness of their crisp curved lines, the powerful flow of sure elegant curves
and recesses - Yes, and in the brightness of fresh paint."<
"Like heraldic crests, these poles told of the mythological beginnings of the great families, at a time before time, when animals and
mythic beasts and men lived as equals, and all that was to be established by the play of Raven and Eagle, Bear and Wolf, Frog and Beaver,
Thunderbird and Whale."
"Each pole contained the essential spirit of the individual or family it commemorated, as well as the spirit of the artist who made it,
and by extension, the living essence of the whole People. While the People lived, the poles lived, and long after their culture died,
the poles continued to radiate a terrible vitality that only decay and destruction could end. Even trapped in the stairwells of museums,
truncated and dismembered in storage sheds, or lying in shattered fragments in now vanished villages they once glorified, the contained
power - born of magic origins and the genius of their creators - still survives."
"All things must die, and great art must be a living thing, or it is not art at all."
In the old days, Bill said, a totem pole in decay would not be restored. It would be replaced with a new pole that would
commemorate the new housechief. In replacing the pole that Bill and Doug Cranmer raised here in 1962 with Jim Hart's pole
in honour of Bill, we are adhering somewhat to that tradition. In restoring Bill's pole for eventual placement in the Great
Hall in the Museum of Anthropology, we are going against Haida tradition somewhat, but we are doing something in the spirit
of the great rescue of the poles at Ninstints in 1957. Bill was part of that rescue team that eventually brought some of
the old poles to the museums, here and in Victoria.
Perhaps we can view the restoration and moving of his pole as a symbol of Bill himself, as he moves from being a contemporary
artist, mentor and friend to so many younger Haida artists, Jim Hart among them, to becoming a revered artistic ancestor,
taking his place among the ancestors who had inspired him. I feel that the Spirit of Bill Reid is here with us today.
Thank you for witnessing.
Thank you Jim, Nika, Walker, Paul, Oliver, Michael, and all the people of Haida Gwaii for carving this monumental and loving
tribute to Bill Reid.
I hope that the pole that we have raised today will endure for many decades as a reminder of the glory of all the carvers
of Haida Gwaii, past and present, and as a respectful memorial to Bill.