The next time you walk through the front door of CASA Centre, take a moment and look up.
The stunning modern totem pole you see is called “Time for Rebirth.” It was designed by celebrated Haida Gwaii artist Ben Davidson for CASA.
Using the symbol of a tree, “Time for Rebirth” reflects the power of our connections to past, present and future from where our strength and our knowledge emerge. Beginning at the base of the tree, there are three feathers or roots to honour our connections to our ancestors and Elders. As the trunk grows up from the earth, it transforms into branches. From these branches, an eagle and raven honour our connections to our parents, mentors and teachers; their wings are outstretched to guide and protect. The salmon come out from behind the eagle and raven to represent the youth who protect our knowledge and bring it into the future.
Ben’s Haida name is Tlajang Nang Kingaas, meaning “the one who is known far away.” Ben was a mental health advocate and youth mentor, and raised money for CASA through the Cycle Tour for many years. He was able to use his passion for cycling to bring light to the mental health needs of Indigenous Peoples. Through his art, he told stories about the strength of Indigenous Peoples.
His goal for “Time for Rebirth” was to inspire courage in the kids, families and CASA staff who would see it every day. With the help of Carrie Avveduti, CASA’s director of inclusion and belonging, Ben consulted with several Treaty Six Elders and artists to ensure the Haida totem would be welcomed to its new home in Treaty Six with the proper protocol and ceremony. Carrie felt honoured to have been part of this journey that resulted in a beautiful piece of Haida art that shares the story of all Indigenous Peoples.
Tragically, Ben passed away suddenly in August 2020, shortly after approving the first artist’s proof of “Time for Rebirth.” His wife Tawni Davidson and their children felt strongly about seeing through Ben’s final piece. They worked with Ben’s father and fellow artist Robert Davidson, CASA’s Cycle Tour family and the fabricator to finish what Ben started. Fellow cyclist Martin Pederson carved a beautiful cedar ledge for the totem and was instrumental in the installation process.
On March 22, a private ceremony was held with Ben’s loved ones, Haida Gwaii Elders and Cree Elders to gift and welcome Ben’s totem to Treaty Six Territory.
The theme of rebirth was especially fitting considering the timing of the ceremony. It was held as winter turned to spring, and during a time of rebirth and renewal for CASA. As we move forward with new and expanding programs, a new visual identity and a province-wide expansion, “Time for Rebirth” is a strong reminder that our strength comes from our roots and carries us forward as we help the next generation.