Stolen Totem Pole Returns Home to Nisga’a Nation in Canada After Nearly a Century in Scotland.

Symbolic Totem Pole, Carved with History, Makes Its Way Back to Indigenous Roots.

In a remarkable turn of events, a cherished totem pole, which had been missing from the Nisga’a Nation for almost a century, has been returned to its rightful home in British Columbia, Canada, following decades of display in Scotland. This 36-foot (11m) totem pole, weighing a staggering one tonne, was sold to the National Museum of Scotland in 1929 by Canadian anthropologist Marius Barbeau. However, claims have emerged that it was taken without the consent of the Nisga’a Nation while their community members were away during their annual hunting season.

The totem pole, now one of the National Museum of Scotland’s largest exhibits in Edinburgh, features intricate carvings of animals, human figures, and family crests, recounting the story of a Nisga’a warrior poised to become chief before his untimely demise. This symbolic pole had proudly stood in the Nass Valley for over 70 years before it was relocated to Scotland.

The museum, recognizing the need for reconciliation, has acknowledged that the individual who “sold” the totem pole to Barbeau acted “without the cultural, spiritual, or political authority to do so on behalf of the Nisga’a Nation.” Consequently, an agreement was reached last year to return the artifact to its rightful owners.

On Monday, August 28th, 2023, a group of Nisga’a people conducted a private spiritual ceremony in front of the totem pole in Edinburgh, a poignant moment marking the beginning of its journey home. The totem pole will be carefully encased in a protective cradle, with scaffolding erected to facilitate its removal from the museum. Over the next month, it will be transported across the Atlantic by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

This gesture symbolizes an essential step towards rectifying historical injustices and repatriating cultural artifacts to their indigenous origins. It is hoped that this remarkable act will inspire museums around the world to follow suit and return stolen artifacts to their original communities.






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