Photos: Hundreds attend Survivors' Totem Pole procession and raising in the Downtown Eastside

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      After five years of planning, Bernie Williams and her team of carvers were joined by close to a thousand people early this afternoon, to watch the raising of the Survivors' Totem Pole.

      Carved from a 982-year-old red cedar log by Williams and 12 apprentices, the 27-foot pole now stands tall at the corner of Hastings and Carrall, in the centre of Pigeon Park.

      A ceremony was held prior to the pole's procession down West Cordova, where witnesses including matriarchs, elders, and politicians (Mayor Gregor Robertson, Councillor Andrea Reimer, and MLA Melanie Mark, among others) were honoured for their support of the project.

      Drummers led the way as the pole was transported down Cordova and to the corner of Main and Hastings, where hundreds had gathered awaiting the pole's arrival, before a final procession to Pigeon Park.

      In an earlier interview with Williams, she explained that the pole was made to commemorate the resiliency of past and present residents of the Downtown Eastside:

      “This pole is for everybody: it represents the resilience of everyone who has faced racism, colonialism, sexism, LGBTQ-bashing, gentrification, and more,” Williams says.

      “These things have really affected this whole community. We want to let people that are moving into this area know that this is a great community, that we are still part of it, and we’re not going away. 

      "We are here to stay, and this pole is a lasting legacy for these people, and all the people that have helped make this happen.”

      Bernie Williams at the witness ceremony.
      Amanda Siebert
      Bernie and her son, Presley, wore new regalia for the raising.
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      Taking the pole out of Williams's studio at 33 West Cordova.
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      Drummers led the way through the Downtown Eastside.
      Amanda Siebert
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      Attendees hold up copper shields.
      Amanda Siebert
      Amanda Siebert
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