A Totem Pole on a Pile of Garbage
At the entrance to Belle Park in Kingston, Ontario, stands a totem pole. The totem pole is alone without explanation or context for walkers that happen past it. Carved by unnamed Indigenous men incarcerated at Joyceville Penitentiary, the pole was gifted to the city of Kingston in 1973. The pole does not resemble Northwest Coast style totem poles; instead, many of the images carved make visible Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe histories, worldviews and stories, which were significant to the men who created it. The totem pole sits encased in concrete at the entrance to Belle Park, which was a golf course (until 2017) built on a landfill (until 1974), built on a wetland (until 1954). Having stood there so long, in a space that has seen so much change, what does this totem pole have to tell us?
A Totem Pole on a Pile of Garbage (13mins, 2021) is a single channel video that captures one day of the totem pole at the park. Overlaid on the video, community voices are heard speaking to the totem pole and asking questions to it, and about it.