UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 4 | Apr.
A New Thunderbird Will Rise Again on Campus
Totem creates a more welcoming environment for aboriginals
By Brian Lin
UBC is about to launch a fundraising campaign to erect a
new Thunderbird totem pole.
The original pole, presented to the Alma Mater Society during
the 1948 homecoming football game, was first erected outside
Brock Hall and later relocated to Student Union Boulevard
near the North Parkade.
The late Chief William Scow of Vancouver Island's Kwick-sutaineuk
Nation and his son Alfred -- who attended UBC Law School and
later became the first aboriginal lawyer and judge in B.C.
-- joined noted carver Ellen Neel and her husband Edward in
presenting the stunning pole, aptly named Victory Through
Chief Scow also gave UBC the right to use the name Thunderbird
for its sports teams, making it the only Canadian university
with official permission from the First Nation to use the
Two years ago, the pole was desecrated by vandals and now
lies in fragments in the South Campus warehouse, where it
will stay until a new pole is erected.
The pole was raised at a time when only a few First Nations
students attended UBC, and participating in any Indian
festival, dance or other ceremony and giving away Indian
goods was an indictable offence under the Indian Act says
Madeleine MacIvor, associate director of the First Nations
House of Learning. In dedicating the pole to UBC, Neel spearheaded
the efforts to establish a close relationship between the
university and First Nations communities.
To the native people of the whole province we can
give our assurance that [their] children will be accepted
at this school by the staff and student council, eager to
smooth their paths with kindness and understanding,
Neel said at the time.
We need now only students to take advantage of the
opportunity, so that some day our doctors, lawyers, social
workers and departmental workers will be fully trained university
graduates of our own race.
A committee, chaired by Community Affairs Executive Director
Sid Katz and including members of the Neel and Scow families,
has secured wood from northern B.C. and identified a carver
with the help of the Neel family. The new pole will be partly
carved in northern B.C. before it is transported to campus,
where students, faculty and staff can witness its rebirth.
Were estimating the total cost of re-erecting
the Thunderbird pole to be approximately $100,000, says
Katz. We will be looking for contributions, big or small,
to help finance this project. Every little bit helps.
The new pole will help create a more welcoming environment
for aboriginal people, which Katz says is a vital part of
building and maintaining relationships with our neighbours,
the Musqueam and other First Nations.
MacIvor says re-erecting and re-dedicating the pole presents
a great opportunity for UBC to renew its commitment to aboriginal
student recruitment. Currently, there are approximately 500
self-identified First Nations students at UBC, making up just
one per cent of the total student population.
The original Thunderbird pole symbolized a commitment
by UBC and First Nations to develop an ongoing relationship.
Over the years, that history was forgotten and the relationship
has suffered as a result, says MacIvor.
The new pole will serve as a reminder of the strong
relationship that First Nations and the university are striving