San Group is turning to the public for landscaping ideas after having to erect a fence on its property skirting the n’aasn’aas?aqsa totem pole at Millstone Park in Port Alberni.
San Group Inc. donated a piece of land near its helicopter landing pads for the totem pole when carver Tim Paul and the team behind it were looking for a permanent home. N’aasn’aas?aqsa began as a United Nations project, a Language Revitalization Pole, a few years ago, and was originally to be placed near the University of Victoria. When plans fell apart for that location, San Group stepped forward.
A fence was originally taken down to make way for the pole’s permanent base, and was not immediately put back up.
Amit Chandra Shekar said both the company’s insurance provider and WorkSafeBC mandated that the fence be re-installed. People had been accessing the work site on foot and by bicycle, not respecting the signs that had been erected. “It’s a working zone and it’s not safe for people to be walking through there,” he said.
Port Alberni resident Deana Huntsbarger said she was disappointed to see the fence up with barbed wire across the top. Huntsbarger sent a letter to city council saying she often walks the park along the Somass River adjacent to Victoria Quay. She brought a friend from Calgary to see the totem pole and both were upset to see the fence so close to the totem pole.
“My visitor commented right away on the fence—at how anti-colonial and anti-Truth and Reconciliation the barbed wire, sharp edges and proximity to the totem struck her, and I absolutely agree.”
San Group donated land for n’aasn’aas?aqsa, the First Nations Language Revitalization Pole, when it needed a new home. A fence that originally surrounded two helicopter landing pads was removed at one end to allow the totem pole to be situated on Nuu-chah-nulth territory along the Somass River.
Shekar said San Group is hoping to work with local First Nations on a way to landscape the area that is respectful of n’aasn’aas?aqsa. There were tentative plans to include some kind of educational structure there, he added.