An elaborate ceremony was organised to prepare an 11-meter memorial totem pole that had been “taken” from Scotland for its return to Canada. This is allegedly the first transfer of its sort from a UK institution.
The pole will be sent back to the Nass Valley in British Columbia after spending almost a century in Scotland, as agreed upon by the Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) and National Museums Scotland (NMS) in December of last year.
On behalf of the Royal Museum of Scotland, which eventually changed its name to the National Museum of Scotland.
Canadian curator and ethnographer Marius Barbeau made the purchase in 1929, and the Royal Museum of Scotland put it on exhibit the following year.
‘Stolen’ totem pole prepared for return to Canada
NMS asserted that even though the museum purchased the pole in good faith. It now realises that whoever “sold” it to Mr. Barbeau lacked the cultural, spiritual, or political authority. To operate on behalf of the Nisga’a Nation.
A delegation from the Nisga’a Lisims Government has been to the museum in Edinburgh to oversee it. The beginning of the pole’s return after months of planning and preparation.
This week, a special spiritual ceremony was to get the pole ready for its return trip next month.
Chief Earl Stephens, also known as Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl, stated: “In Nisga’a culture, we think that this pole is alive with the spirit of our forefathers.
We are now able to return our cherished relative home to rest on Nisga’a grounds after almost 100 years.
The Ni’isjoohl memorial pole’s return to us means a lot to us because it will allow us to share our living history with our family, country, and future generations.
The House of Ni’isjoohl from the Nisga’a Nation’s Ganada (frog clan) is the owner of the memorial pole.
To honour her relative Ts’awit, who was the next in line to be stolen, a totem pole was prepared for return to Canada by House of Ni’isjoohl matriarch Joanna Moody.
The pole’s carving by Nisga’a master carver Oyee in 1860. Ts’awit was another warrior who gave his life defending his family and country.
“We are grateful to collectively tell a new story that turns the colonial gaze onto itself by acknowledging the complexities of our pole’s theft.
Its generational absence from our community, and the perseverance needed to ensure that justice for our ancestors prevails,” said Sigidimnak’ Noxs Ts’aawit, Dr. Amy Parent.
The process of retrieving possessions is ground in indigenous ‘Stolen’ totem pole prepared for return to Canada law and more closely aligns with Nisga’a matrilineal society when it is refer to as “rematriation,” which is how the pole is being returned.
The pole will be deliver to Terrace, British Columbia. The following month, where it will be driven in a family procession.
The Nisga’a Village of Laxgalts’ap in the Nass Valley. Where it will be kept at Hli Goothl Wilp-Adokshl Nisga, or the Nisga Museum.
On September 29, a public welcoming ceremony will be perform there.
The pole will then be hoiste over the course of the next few days. Made accessible to the public for viewing in October.
“Since the transfer of the memorial pole was agreed upon last December, our staff has planning the challenging.
Task of properly lowering and transporting it in what is the first return. Its kind by a UK national institution,” stated Dr. Chris Breward, Director of NMS.
rteThe Nisga’a delegation was warmly welcome to the museum before we wished the Pole farewell. We are happy to have arrived at the point where that work is already underway.