Legacy Pole

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

The Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole is a 42-foot monumental pole. In Haida tradition, after they are carved, danced and raised, monumental poles become living members of the community that tell stories and history.

© Parks Canada / J. Shafto

Celebrating cooperative management

The Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole is a 42-foot monumental pole carved to honour the 20th anniversary of the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, the cornerstone of a groundbreaking cooperative management relationship between the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada.

An equal number of Haida Nation and Government of Canada representatives manage this special area through the Archipelago Management Board, renowned throughout the world as a model for cultural and natural resource governance.

More than 400 people participated in the raising of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole on August 15, 2013 in the remote location of Hlk’yah G̱awG̱a (Windy Bay) on Lyell Island. Another 400 people joined Parks Canada staff in Skidegate on the same day to witness the pole raising via a live stream on the big screen at the Haida Heritage Centre.

More than 700 people attended a community celebration was held in Skidegate on August 17, 2013, to honour the event, as is done in the Haida tradition.

© Parks Canada / J. Shafto

Cultural continuity

This is the first pole raised in the Gwaii Haanas region in over 130 years, building a connection with the historic poles still standing in the villages of SG̱ang Gwaay (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Skedans (Ḵ’uuna Llnagaay).

Sustaining the continuity of Haida culture is a key commitment in the Gwaii Haanas Agreement.

This monumental red cedar was chosen for the Legacy Pole project by carver Jaalen Edenshaw.
© Parks Canada / J. Edenshaw

© Parks Canada / J. Shafto

The carver and his assistants

Jaalen Edenshaw was chosen as the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole carver by a six-person selection committee consisting of a hereditary Chief, two Haida citizens, a carver and two Gwaii Haanas staff members.

The proposals were put before the committee, with no names attached, and evaluated by storyline and design. Once chosen as head carver, Jaalen decided to ask Tyler York and his brother Gwaai to be his assistants.

The carvers gaze up at the standing pole.
© Parks Canada / J. Shafto

Jaalen was born in 1980 and is a member of the Ts’aahl – Eagle clan. In 2009, Jaalen was the head carver of the 36-foot ‘Cormorant’ pole for the village of Old Massett.

In 2010, he and his older brother Gwaai collaborated on the 43-foot ‘Two Brothers’ pole raised in Jasper National Park, Alberta. Jaalen draws his inspiration from the language, the stories, and the natural world of Haida Gwaii.

Gwaai is best known for his unique designs in gold and silver jewellery. He learned to carve alongside his father Guujaaw, Bill Reid, and others.

Tyler is 23 years old and is a member of the Skedans Raven clan. He has been working with other carvers since he was 16 and has assisted Jaalen on several other projects.

© Parks Canada / Peter Moore

The story of the Legacy Pole

The pole design was selected for its “Land, Sea, People” theme and is inspired by the connections between the Haida Nation and all those who take care of Gwaii Haanas from mountain-top to seafloor.

The pole tells the story of how Canada and the Haida Nation came together through an historic agreement to protect Gwaii Haanas. Visitors, archaeologists, Haida Gwaii Watchmen, Haida Ravens and Eagles, those who participated in protests at Athlii Gwaii (Lyell Island) are all represented in the design. The eagle at the top of the pole and sculpin at the bottom represent the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation to protect Gwaii Haanas from sea floor to mountain top.

Jaalen also included Sacred-One-Standing-and-Moving, the supernatural being responsible for earthquakes. This figure honours the impact the 7.7 magnitude October 2012 earthquake had on Hotspring Island, a place of great cultural importance to the Haida Nation.

The Legacy Pole standing at Windy Bay in 2013 (left) and 2023 (right).
© Parks Canada / J. Edenshaw (right)
© Parks Canada / Peter Moore (left)

Figures on the pole from the bottom up represent: Sculpin, Grizzly Bear, Five People Standing Together, Raven, Sacred-One-Standing-and-Moving, Wasco, Dog, Visitor, Three Watchmen, and Eagle. 

Eagle EAGLE represents the sky and, along with Raven, is one of the two Haida moieties.




3 Watchmen 3 WATCHMEN honour all those watching over Gwaii Haanas, past and present.




Dog, Marten and Visitor DOG represents recent archaeological findings that indicate human presence on Haida Gwaii as early as 14,000 years ago. MARTEN (centre) runs up the post holding Haida Gwaii, creating the sound before a big earthquake. VISITOR represents people who come and experience Gwaii Haanas.



 WASCO is a supernatural being described as a sea wolf.




Sacred One Standing and Moving SACRED ONE STANDING AND MOVING is a supernatural being who holds up Haida Gwaii. When he moves the islands shake.



 RAVEN is one of two Haida moieties, and creates balance with eagle at the top.




5 Good People Standing Together 5 GOOD PEOPLE STANDING TOGETHER honours those who stood the line at Athlii Gwaii, and all the others who worked together to protect Gwaii Haanas.


Grizzly Bear and Sculpin GRIZZLY BEAR ties ancient oral stories with recent archaeological findings that grizzly bears once existed on Haida Gwaii.

SCULPIN represents the watery extreme of the sea.


Photo galleries

Photo gallery 1: Carving

Photo gallery 2: Carving

Photo gallery 3: Pole raising

Photo gallery 4: Community celebration

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