Discovering Vancouver: Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Stanley Park provides a great many things to discover on 1,000 acres (that’s roughly 4 square kilometres)! One of its biggest attractions visited by thousands of tourists every year are the totem poles at Brockton Point.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park

Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

The original totem poles were brought in from Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia and dated back to the 1880s. They were subsequently taken to museums and replaced by new totem poles that were made in the late 20th century. Nonetheless, they are elaborate and colourful pieces of First Nations art in British Columbia.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

The nine totem poles in Stanley Park consist of authentic replicas of the original poles and newly carved poles that were made by various artists in the 1980s and 1990s. They all represent real or mythical stories from First Nations peoples or symbolise a crest telling their family or tribe’s history. The Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole on the far right of the above picture was carved in 1964 by Haida artist Bill Reid and his assistant Werner True and honours the Raven Chief of Skedans.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Totem Pole by Robert Yelton (Squamish Nation) in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

The latest totem pole to join the Stanley Park site is an unpainted pole. It was added in 2009 and carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation. The pole represents a tribute to the artist’s mother Rose, who was one of the last residents of Stanley Park.

Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

Totem Pole by Robert Yelton (Squamish Nation) in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

These totem poles are apparently the most visited tourist attraction of British Columbia. This may sound like a turn-off for some travellers looking for off the beaten path experiences, but you’ll find Stanley Park’s totem poles a worthy sight to explore in Vancouver. These fantastic works of art with their unique meanings, stories and myths can be integrated perfectly into a bike ride around Stanley Park’s seawall but are also easily reachable by foot if you prefer to take a walk around the park.

Have you visited Stanley Park’s totem poles? What other First Nations historic sites and works of art can you recommend?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  14 comments for “Discovering Vancouver: Totem Poles in Stanley Park

  1. 3 May, 2011 at 14:06

    I’m from Canada and I love that British Colombia really embraces its indigenous roots, you don’t really find that in many other cities throughout Canada.

    • Christina
      3 May, 2011 at 17:28

      Hi Ayngelina! BC rocks, I hope to explore more First Nations history and art at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

  2. 3 May, 2011 at 17:49

    Vancouver would be a great location to visit. Thanks for sharing the Totem Poles. There is so much to do and see in and around Vancouver!

    • Christina
      3 May, 2011 at 17:54

      Wholeheartedly agree with you, Debbie, Vancouver is fantastic to visit. From Granville Island to Stanley Park, the beaches of Kitsilano to Commercial Drive, Grouse Mountain and a spectacular drive to Whistler…

  3. 3 May, 2011 at 20:12

    I love Stanley Park and its totem poles. I’m also Canadian and agree with Ayngelina’s comments above. I would also recommend a bike ride around Stanley Park, it’s a great way of seeing the island.

    • Christina
      4 May, 2011 at 04:17

      Rented a bike last week and went all around the seawall – great ride!

  4. 3 May, 2011 at 23:48

    Stanley Park is a great walk away from the big city. Loved it there last summer!

    • Christina
      4 May, 2011 at 04:40

      Glad you enjoyed the park, Ben! It is a beautiful and active oasis right downtown, totally with you on that.

  5. 6 May, 2011 at 03:57

    Very cool. Are the originals on display in a museum? It’s wonderful that BC has been able to embrace and allow this kind of cultural expression to flourish.

    • Christina
      6 May, 2011 at 21:52

      The original totem poles were sent to various museums to be preserved, but I don’t know where they are on display. The Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver has totems as well.

  6. 10 August, 2011 at 21:55

    Hi, I’m Gabi from Italy. My Husband and me were at Stanley Park that morning when Squamish People did their Totem pole ceremony in honor of “mother Rose”. We were riding with our rented bikes and we saw the Totem Pole covered in the distance. We thought: What a pity they are under restoration. Then we discovered that we could be present to something which is very rare for tourists. At least we think so. The ceremony was really touching and at the end we thought that it was a great conclusion of our marvelous two weeks of holiday in Alberta and British Columbia. Believe me, you must feel really lucky to live in such beautiful place.

    In our we site few photos of the ceremony:

    http://www.scrical.it/itinerari/viaggi-allestero/canada-e-alaska/into-the-“wide”-and-wet-–-canada-e-alaska-2009-–-epilogo-vancouver/stanley-park-foto/

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