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What is the story with the salmon pole on the Mamquam Blind Channel in Squamish?

Salmon wrap around Squamish Nation artist Kasalus's welcome pole at Sirocco on Loggers Lane. The pole is a Bethel Land Corporation initiative.
You may have seen the pole at Sirocco on Loggers Lane, but do you know the story behind it? 

With new developments in Squamish, there is a District requirement for a piece of public art. When Bethel Lands Corporation representatives put their minds to what to install at Sirocco they turned to Squamish Nation artist Kasalus (Richard Baker), who is internationally known for his Northwest Coast Art.

Kasalus was recently severely injured in a skiing accident and was unavailable to comment for this story. 

In fact, the Sirocco piece was his last before the accident. He had wanted to add one more salmon to the very bottom but was unable to due to his injuries. Luckily, the piece is complete without it. 

The salmon wrapping around the cedar pole, placed on the shore of the Mamquam Blind Channel, harkens back to a time when salmon were more plentiful in Squamish. 

"Squamish, when you look at it geographically speaking, has all these rivers... and many, many creeks that would all have — before the mills and the chemical plants and the mines — would have had massive salmon runs," said a Bethel spokesperson. "Squamish Nation [folks] would have lived here because food sources would have been very, very plentiful." 

For Northwest Coastal First Nations, salmon is the symbol of life. 

"It is the base for both bears and eagles and wolves and the large predators, but also the forest folks can tell you that when there were large salmon runs, they can tell because the rings on the trees grew bigger because it was fertilized by dead salmon. Having salmon [bring] nutrients from the ocean to the land is really what creates a very abundant cycle of life on the land with humans, animals, and birds and with other fish and all the rest of it." 

The pole also may remind those in Squamish of what could be in terms of a more plentiful salmon run, the spokesperson said. 

While under construction, many creosote pilings along with boats and nine cars were hauled out during the excavation for Sirocco, which is located on one of the first spots that Squamish saw European settlement, the spokesperson said. 

"We wanted to mark the spot where First Nations first lived and where they first interacted with European settlers, so it seemed that a piece of art that had salmon on it... seemed like the right thing," the spokesperson said. 

"It is quite a beautiful piece of art." 

Once COVID-19 restrictions are no longer in place, there will be a ceremony to commemorate and dedicated the pole.

Sirocco at 38050 Loggers Lane includes three, four-storey condo buildings along the Blind Channel. It also includes more than 5,000 square feet of commercial space and will have float homes and floating commercial units on the channel when fully built out.