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Peace pole for Cowichan

The design for the proposed peace pole by artist Glenn Patterson. - courtesy Joan Gilatt
The design for the proposed peace pole by artist Glenn Patterson.
— image credit: courtesy Joan Gilatt

Former Beatle John Lennon urged us to give peace a chance.

Joan Gillatt, a former city councillor and Freeman of Duncan wants to do more than that. She wants to erect a peace pole — with the requisite Cowichan flair — in downtown Duncan, so locals get a visual reminder about the importance of peace, as well as a place to experience it.

"Let's start here by putting it front and centre in our community, where people can see it," she said.

Asked why this project and why now, she said it seemed to her that the area needed it.

"Peace is more important than war, peace begins with individuals living peacefully within our community," Gillatt said. "There was too much divisiveness between the First Nations people and the people who settled here, it's (the relationship) getting better all the time."

An example of that improving relationship is the fact that Cowichan's peace pole is not really a pole, but two interlocking fiddle head ferns, that stand 10 and 12 feet high. Gillatt says the ferns are indigenous to the area and were part of the First Nations early-spring, subsistence food, that provided them with fresh greens.

"They were a sign of spring, new hope," she said.

The project has been a labour of love for Gillatt, who first came up with the idea in 2011, after reading that more than 250,000 peace poles had been raised by individuals around the world.

The idea started after the Second World War, when a Japanese man put a pole in his yard, that read, "may peace prevail on earth."

"Communities across the world have taken this up," she said.

After securing Duncan council's commitment to find a space to place the pole on city property — a location has yet to be found — the community elder approached the Cowichan Tribes.

"Ideally I'd like it to be in the heart of the town," Gillatt said. "Someone suggested by the train tracks near Trunk Road."

The pole, designed by Glenn Patterson, will be carved by a member of the Cowichan Tribes. Plans are for one of the ferns to have the saying, "may peace prevail on earth," in English, the other in the Tribes' native language Hul'qumi'num.

The garden will also have a traditional Cowichan welcoming figure, which will be carved with the participation of the community, similar to the Spirit Pole, which was carved for the North American Indigenous Games in 2008.

For locals willing to give peace a chance, the Peace Pole Art Project Committee could use your help.

Those interested in entering a raffle — prizes include a garden design, a spa treatment or an evening kayak trip for two - should purchase the tickets before July 12 at Portals Gallery in the Island Savings Centre, or Island Bagel on Station Street

The society hopes to raise $20,000 and already has $1,200 in donations, another $750 from the raffle and a commitment from the City of Duncan for $5,000.

Online donations can be made through Social Planning Cowichan at www.CanadaHelps.org and cheques mailed to SPC's 135 Duncan Street, V9L 1R9 address.

For more information about the peace pole project, visit www.cowichanpeacepole.com or visit their page on Facebook.

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