Totem poles stolen from Malahat Mountain Inn

Two decades-old totem poles have disappeared from the former Malahat Mountain Inn, and the owner suspects the thieves are targeting the First Nations artifacts.

Randy Strandlund, who assumed ownership of the now-closed inn atop the Trans-Canada Highway this month, said the most recent theft happened overnight on a Saturday.

Strandlund said he woke up Sunday morning and discovered that one of the totems had fallen down the embankment after being unbolted.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on?’ ” Then he noticed that another eight-foot totem pole was gone.

He suspects the thieves were trying to take the fallen totem pole but that the heavy wooden structure got away from them and fell down the embankment. Strandlund and his son used a ramp to recover it.

Four weeks ago, another pole, a figure of a man standing about eight feet tall, disappeared from the property.

After some research, Strandlund believes one of the totem poles dates back to at least 1947 and another to 1935.

“They’re pretty iconic,” he said. “I’ve grown up in the area and always noticed them.”

Strandlund did an Internet search and believes a picture of one of the totem poles was put on eBay. The post had since been taken down.

“Knowing that they’ve been there for so long, it makes me kind of sick to see someone come along to take them and try to sell them,” he said. “They’ve stood there for so long, it’s almost like grave robbing.”

On Monday, March 3, Strandlund reported the theft to the Shawnigan Lake RCMP.

There were a total of six totem poles on the property. Strandlund has taken three inside the inn to make it more difficult for thieves to get at them. One 18-foot totem pole, too big to move inside, remains outside.

Strandlund estimated the totems weigh almost 350 pounds each and that it would take at least two people to move them.

The security cameras that watched over the inn’s parking lot were disabled when the inn closed, Strandlund said. The inn has been closed for a year after facing foreclosure.

Strandlund and his wife, Lori, bought the property, which was put into receivership by the bank, and plan to rename it Moon Water Lodge and the Lookout Restaurant.

The landmark property atop the Malahat, previously called the Malahat Chalet, has been a popular ice cream and burger stop for tourists and commuters for generations.

According to the Victoria Daily Times, the “famed totem poles” were among the only items not destroyed in a September 1958 fire that razed the Malahat Chalet, which had been operating for at least a decade at that time.

Eric Pelkey, an elder with the Tsawout First Nation, said totem poles carry great significance for First Nations people, a sacred legacy of the carver’s family history.

“It’s a piece of history for us that’s been stolen,” he said.

Michael Harry, chief of the Malahat First Nation, said he was devastated to learn of the thefts.

“I’m quite heartbroken right now. It’s not something that I thought would ever happen,” he said. Harry said the members of the band will be meeting this morning to discuss how to move forward.

All three men said they hope the totem poles will be recovered and put back in their rightful place, keeping watch over the Malahat and Finlayson Arm.

Just Posted

Robert's column
Robert Barron column: Skyrocketing house prices a tragedy

North Cowichan councillor Rosalie Sawrie brought an interesting perspective to a discussion… Continue reading

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

Cute but fierce! Timber moonlights as an attack kitty. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Beware of Mr. Bite, the midnight attacker

Last week, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read