New totem pole in Calgary ‘bringing people together’ to support Indigenous employment

A beautiful new surprise has appeared this week for people making their way through a high-rise office complex in downtown Calgary.

It’s a totem pole that’s the centrepiece of an effort to provide much-needed community support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Standing approximately four metres tall in the indoor shopping plaza at Bow Valley Square, the pole was commissioned by the owner of Stream-Flo, an Alberta oilfield service company.

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The pole was carved on the Squamish Nation, a bit north of Vancouver.

“A lot of work is done on Indigenous land, a lot of oil and gas exploration,” Stream-Flo’s Markus Lemke said. “And we’ve always maintained a very strong relationship with those communities.”

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The company is now supporting those communities with a fundraising project centred on the pole, with the money going to support the preservation of the Squamish language and to help the Community Futures Treaty Seven agency develop Indigenous employment in southern Alberta.

“The contribution will create more opportunities for more students,” the agency’s Rob St. Clair said, “and bring a lot of First Nations students together with employers in the Calgary area.”

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The project is also raising money for the STARS Air Ambulance service.

“It’s truly significant — we are not alone in the fact that all charities and businesses have been touched by the COVID(-19) pandemic,” Sarah Eccleston of STARS said. “And we are just so grateful for community partners that are continuing to fundraise for us.”

Organizers of the project are appealing for community support while the pole remains on display at Bow Valley Square until the end of May 2021.

“Behind the totem pole there’s a QR code, where people can scan their phones and give donations,” Lemke said.

Read more: STARS air ambulance sees spike in COVID-19 missions across the Prairies

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They’ll wrap up the project by auctioning off the pole, with the highest bidder taking it home.

All proceeds from the donations and the auction will go to the charity efforts.

“We are hoping to raise $200,000 or more,” Lemke said.

The agency that works to support Indigenous employment says the project fits in well with its goals.

“The symbolism of the totem pole bringing two First Nations communities together, it’s a theme that kind of matches our mandate in bringing people together,” St. Denis said.

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