Editor’s note: The following letters are from humanities teacher Brodie Robbins’ Learning Expeditions class at St’a7mes School (Stawamus). Students were asked to examine local monuments through the lens of cultural sustainability, and whether these monuments are worth keeping, what is missing, and what changes could be made to better reflect and preserve our diverse community. This was inspired by the Sir John A. Macdonald statue controversy in Victoria.
Chipping away at threats to culture
On Sept. 15, 1874, the first non-native person settled in Squamish Valley, eventually leading to a bunch of unfair land treaties. Although logging is a big part of Canadian history, it presents a threat to cultural sustainability in Squamish.
Logging affects the environment, and it represents how the First Nations land was unfairly taken from them. Therefore, the logger sports monument that visitors see when they come into Squamish, should be relocated so it isn’t across from Squamish Nation’s Totem Hall.
The logger sports monument symbolizes how the logging industry and governments unfairly took possession of the First Nations’ land. Evidence shows that many indigenous people wished to renegotiate land treaties, though the B.C. government refused until the 1990s. This is why people need to look into removing the statue from across from the Squamish Nation Totem Hall to where it won’t remind the Aboriginal people that the land that rightfully belonged to them was unfairly taken from them and used for logging.
Besides, the monument presents a threat to the environment. Each year, our amazing local forests are endangered, swaths of forests are lost all over B.C. due to logging.
Not just that, animal species are severely impacted by logging as well and are often forced out of their natural habitats.
For these reasons, the logger sports monument should be removed. We should consider moving the statue to the original logger sports location in Squamish, and raise awareness that logging still endangers our beautiful B.C. forests today.
About the John A. Macdonald statue controversy
The John A. Macdonald statue has been a large part of the Victoria community discussion recently because there has been a lot of controversy over if it should stay up or be taken down. I believe that the statue should have stayed in its place, but have plaques below it documenting John A. Macdonald’s achievements in the start and building of the Canadian government and also showing the atrocities that he put upon First Nations people.
That way, it would show both sides and not glorify him or celebrate what he did in the past. It would just recognize the history, so we don’t forget. The controversy comes from two sides, one that shows him as a large part of history in the creation of the Canadian government. Matthew Breeden from the City of Vancouver participated in the Victoria protest and said in a CBC article, “It’s part of our history I feel is being ripped right out and gutted down. I think that’s just terrible.” The other side shows how racist and disruptive he was to First Nations people with the creation of residential schools.
Another protester Rose-Redwood commented, “Macdonald ... was one of the leading architects of the residential schools which instigated the cultural genocide of Indigenous people in this country.”
Monuments and statues are a powerful way of displaying anything, but it’s the meaning they convey that is the most important, whether that be negative or positive.
That is why the John A Macdonald statue should have been displayed more educationally and respectfully. We can not erase the past, but through education about history, we can move forward into the future with respect and understanding.
Erecting a foundation for multicultural engagement, not monuments
When coming into the District of Squamish, the first thing a person might see is a giant monument commemorating Logger Sports.
As it stands, however, the monument has little to no cultural meaning, is a waste of money, and is simply a symbol of man’s arrogance.
It does not restore cultural practices, or even at the minimum, bring attention to them; it celebrates the mass destruction of trees.
Instead of further monuments being built, taxpayer money should go toward culturally restorative practices such as public First Nation’s potlatches, parades (like the Sikh parade), and other impactful celebrations.
Public celebrations are more culturally representative than a monument, which can be subject to the shifting of public opinion of what the monument represents such as the statue of John A. Macdonald at Victoria City Hall. Culturally relevant events allow for the culture to shift and better accommodate the needs of the general public of the period.
It also allows the public to be educated on a practice relevant to culture and understand its importance, rather than having a plaque with vague information attached to a statue.
Yes, while monuments are mostly permanent, and if put in a high traffic location will garner interest in what the statue represents, the stories of monuments are almost never told from both sides. Culturally representative and restorative practices will allow for cultures to have their say without having to fight another narrative.