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Haida Gwaii Totem Tour wraps up in Edmonton

The Haida Gwaii Totem Tour group left Mile Zero at Masset on Haida Gwaii, the start of the 1,760 km trip. - Ron Pawlowski
The Haida Gwaii Totem Tour group left Mile Zero at Masset on Haida Gwaii, the start of the 1,760 km trip.
— image credit: Ron Pawlowski

After cycling for nearly 2,000 kilometres and raising more than $400,000 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Haida Gwaii Totem Tour wrapped up in Edmonton on Canada Day.

Thirty-six people rode throughout the 1,760-kilometre tour, a number of whom were over 70 years old, that started on June 16 in Masset at the Yellowhead Highway Mile 0 sign and ended in Edmonton on Canada Day.

The purpose of the journey was to deliver a totem pole carved by Haida artist Ben Davidson to be donated to the facility and raise funds.

Nick Lees, who is an Edmonton Journal columnist, organized the Haida Gwaii Totem Tour after visiting his friend Dr. Peter Lake in Haida Gwaii a number of years ago. While the pair was visiting the north end of Haida Gwaii, Lees was inspired to donate a totem pole to the hospital.

“A third of the patients at Stollery at any given time are [Aboriginal]. It can get as high as two sometimes,” Lees explained.

Haida carver Ben Davidson created the totem pole, with his father and renowned carver Robert Davidson and a few apprentices helping for periods.

Davidson got in contact with the parents of young children who passed away prematurely while he was designing the pole, including a Skidegate family would chose an eagle.

Davidson asked the parents of three children who died prematurely due to different illnesses to create butterflies, with the parents donating some of their ashes to be mixed in the paint used on the totem pole.

Anchoring the totem pole, Davidson carved a bison to tie in the prairie First Nations people.

The 10-foot, 900-pound totem pole was transported by truck along with the riders, one of which was Davidson.

Participants rode for as much as 165 kilometres in one day, finishing nearly three weeks later in Churchill Square on Canada Day, where the Works Art and Design Festival was taking place.

“We arrived at an arts festival with a 10-foot piece of art,” said Lees.

The group raised $402,000, and Lees said donations are still coming in. The top fundraiser was Alex Webb, 13, who raised $40,000 alone.

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