Canadian Indigenous Heritage Standing Strong in Buenos Aires

Canadian support has made it possible for Totem — a documentary that explores a symbol of indigenous solidarity in Argentina — to bring a unique piece of history to light.

Construction of the original totem pole. (Image obtained via Franca Gonzalez Serra.)

Filming the construction process from start to finish. (Image obtained via Franca Gonzalez Serra.)

One year ago, we shared the story of a totem pole from British Columbia being erected in Buenos Aires. The totem pole serves a tangible cultural bridge, uniting the countries of the Americas through an indigenous world view.

The story of the totem pole, however, reaches farther back than a single year. This totem pole is actually the second to stand in Buenos Aires’ Canada Square. Its predecessor was erected in 1964 and stood until 2008.

The master carver who produced the new totem pole, Stan Hunt, is the son of the carver who produced the original totem erected in 1964. The Embassy of Canada to Argentina helped locate Mr. Hunt and facilitated negotiations between the artist and the local government of Buenos Aires.

The Embassy also secured funding that helped produce Totem.

Argentinian filmmaker Franca Gonzáles and her Canadian producer Carole Laganière found the story of the totem pole to be compelling material for a film. Canadian funding enabled them to capture the images necessary for their documentary, which went on to be post-produced and financed by the Argentine National Film Institute.

The documentary features segments on indigenous Kwakuitl culture and family history, told through the story of the beautiful new totem pole. It was one of three feature films at this year's Doc Buenos Aires, a documentary film festival.

At a recent gathering, guests from the local diplomatic corps, Canadian businesses, NGOs, academia and different levels of government came together to celebrate the documentary’s release and acknowledge the ongoing and vibrant connection shared by the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

Interested in seeing the film? You can view the trailer online.