A memorial totem pole belonging to members of the Nisga’a Nation in northwestern British Columbia is about to begin its journey home from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where it has been on display for nearly a century.
Amy Parent, Nation Member and Canada Research Professor in Indigenous Education and Governance, said she hopes to feel a deep sense of peace when the pole who is alive with the spirit of a relative returns to the Nass Valley.
The pole will make its journey in the belly of a Canadian military plane as a result of what Parent described as an unexpected moment of reconciliation.
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.
“I’m very grateful that we have some strong negotiators who were in Ottawa,” she told The Canadian Press on Thursday as she prepared to leave for Scotland the next day as part of a delegation of members of the Nisga’a community.
“I jokingly sent them a text and said, if you’re talking to some high-ranking Canadian officials, tell them… I want our totem pole sent home on a plane.”
Parent said his message “led to a conversation with the right person” and a brigadier general came forward to support the return of the post.
A representative for the Department of National Defense was not immediately available to comment on the military’s role in returning the device.
The hand-carved pole was commissioned in the 1860s to honor a member of the House of Ni’isjoohl, who was next in line to be chieftain but died protecting his family and nation, the Nisga government said. ‘to Lisims in an earlier statement. month.
The pole was taken without the consent of the nation in 1929 by an ethnographer researching Nisga’a village life, who later sold it to the Scottish museum.
Negotiations over what Parent calls the “rematriation” of polo have lasted a year. A Nisga’a delegation traveled to Scotland to request their return in August 2022, and the museum’s trustee board approved the plan late last year.
A previous Nisga’a delegation traveled to Scotland to request the return of the polo shirt two decades ago, but an official at the time indicated it was too old to move it, said Parent, a professor in the School of Education at Simon Fraser University. .
This time, Canadian experts assessed the condition of the pole and expressed confidence that it could be safely transported home, he said.
“That also prompted us to go there and start our discussions with the museum about repatriation last summer,” Parent said.
The relocation of the totem is “complex”
A statement from Chris Breward, director of the National Museums of Scotland, said museum staff have been planning the “complex task” of carefully lowering the pole in what is the first such return by an institution in the United Kingdom.
Parent is among those who have returned to Scotland, where a ceremony will be held on Monday to ask the spirit inside the pole to rest while it is transported, he said.
The process to remove the post from the museum could take nearly two weeks, he said. You will then be picked up by Canadian forces from a Scottish military base.
Members of the Nisga’a community are “ecstatic” about the return of the pole, Parent said.
A ceremony and party for about 1,000 people is being planned to mark their expected arrival on Nisga’a land on September 29, he said.
Parent said they had achieved something she considered “impossible” by orchestrating a successful repatriation internationally.
The basic first steps any institution can take are to find the rightful owners of the works of art and other cultural treasures found in their collections and to share the history of the items in a way that accurately and respectfully reflects their origins, added.