Vandals chop and burn totem pole

Patrick Ryan's "healing totem" has been destroyed. The 59-year-old Teslin resident erected a 5.4-metre-high totem pole this August on his front lawn. Ryan carved the totem after he was hit head-on in a car crash in Surrey, BC, in December 2000.

Patrick Ryan’s “healing totem” has been destroyed.

The 59-year-old Teslin resident erected a 5.4-metre-high totem pole this August on his front lawn.

Ryan carved the totem after he was hit head-on in a car crash in Surrey, BC, in December 2000.

He suffered through a decade of severe memory loss and spent his spare time carving the cedar plank.

“It’s my path from light to darkness,” said Ryan. “It was my connection between reality and non-reality.”

Topped with a raindrop and a salmon, the totem included bears, frogs, wolves, rabbits, a raven, a thunderbird and a beaver.

Ryan had carved the word “Survivors” on the totem’s back to commemorate his time in a brain-injury survivors society.

He came home two weeks ago to find it stolen without a trace.

Police spoke to neighbors but had few leads, said Constable Michael Muller in an earlier interview.

Tuesday, Ryan came home to find a piece of the thunderbird’s wing tossed on his lawn. He left a message with the police.

An RCMP officer came by later in the evening to tell him some ashes had been found on the side of the Alaska Highway.

“I thought he was coming to see the wing,” said Ryan.

The totem was cut up into tiny pieces, burnt and left in a pile on the highway near the Teslin dump.

“It’s so unreal,” said Ryan.

He still has no idea who destroyed it and wonders why he was targeted.

Ryan, who’s originally from a Newfoundland village called Ferrytown, doesn’t have any First Nations heritage.

He asked a few First Nations people if it was offensive to erect his totem pole.

“There was no reaction, actually,” he said. “I have some native friends here, and I think I’m accepted by the native community.”

Ryan moved to Teslin in August 2008 after doctors recommended he leave Surrey and move into a small town.

He fell in love with the Yukon after driving through it with his son.

The Teslin RCMP detachment was not available for comment.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com