A memorial totem pole belonging to members of the Nisga’a Nation will be formally re-matriated on Friday, after having been on display in a Scottish museum for almost a century.
The return of polo will be celebrated with a ceremony and banquet for around 1,000 people in the Nass Valley. It will be formally remarriaged at the Nisga’a Museum, located in Laxgalts’ap, a town northwest of Terrace, BC.
The pole was taken without the consent of the nation in 1929 by the colonial ethnographer Marius Barbeau, who later sold it to the Scottish museum.
In a sentenceThe Nisga’a said the pole “represents a chapter of the Peoples’ cultural sovereignty and is a living constitutional and visual record.”
He said Barbeau took the pole without the consent of the House of Ni’isjoohl, one of about 50 houses within the Nisga’a Nation, during a period when the Nisga’a Peoples were away from their villages for the hunting, fishing and annual fishing. harvest season.
Negotiations on the rematization of the center have lasted a year. A Nisga’a delegation traveled to Scotland to request their return in August 2022, and the museum’s board of trustees approved the plan that same year.
The nation uses the term “rematriation” instead of “repatriation” because it is a matrilineal community, that is, based on kinship with the maternal line.
a lost relative
The Ni’isjoohl Memorial Post is a house post carved and erected in the 1860s. It tells the story of Ts’wawit, a warrior who was next in line to be chief before dying in a conflict with a neighboring nation.
Noxs Ts’aawit (Dr Amy Parent), Nation Fellow and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Education and Governance, first discovered the memorial pole was in Scotland four years ago. She said her ancestral grandmother had the pole carved and erected in honor of Ts’wawit.
“We know that a carver brings a pole to life when it is first carved. And then, after that point, we consider that totem to have a living spirit and to be a relative. And then it’s like bringing a family member to house after disappearing almost 100 years ago,” he said.
“It’s very meaningful to have this reunion and this return.”
Parent was among the delegation who traveled to Scotland to see the memorial pole and described the emotional moments when he saw it for the first time.
“We could actually feel the pole let out a sigh of relief when we walked into the room and that was the first time I felt a totem pole and could feel the room moving with us.”
A long way home
The pole began its journey at the end of August, traveling in the belly of a Canadian military plane.
While the Scottish museum initially planned to transport the 11-metre pole by boat, Parent said he felt moving it by plane would reduce the risk of damage.
Eva Clayton, president-elect of the Nisga’a Nation, said the day will be one of mixed emotions and will be an educational opportunity for Nisga’a youth.
“It’s one of joy, one of happiness and one that brings tears to tears because we have one of the long-lost artifacts that has returned home,” he said.
“It will be a very educational experience for the younger generation and we hope to continue our culture. With the physical presence of the pole, it will give credibility to our stories.”
In 2007, the United Kingdom voted in favor of the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, part of which calls for the return of ceremonial objects.
In 2010, the Royal British Columbia Museum and the Canadian Museum of History returned 276 historical and spiritual artifacts to the Nisga’a under the terms of the treaty signed in 2000 by the Nisga’a and the governments of Canada and British Columbia.
The Nisga’a said that, to date, only one totem pole has been successfully returned from a European museum. The Haisla G’psgolox pole was returned from Sweden in 2006.