A 36-foot totem pole carved by the House of Ni’isjoohl in British Columbia a century ago is on a sacred journey back home thanks to National Museums Scotland.
The repatriation comes after a year-long discussion with the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government and marks a historic moment for reconciliation between the museum and the Nisg̱a’a Nation, where the memorial pole was first erected.
“After nearly 100 years, we are finally able to bring our dear relative home to rest on Nisg̱a’a lands,” said Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl Chief Earl Stephens, who believes the art is “alive with the spirit of (their) ancestors”.
“It means so much for us to have the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole returned to us, so that we can connect our family, nation, and our future generations with our living history.”
The 36-foot-tall (11m) totem pole has remained in Scotland for nearly a century. It was originally sold to the museum by Canadian anthropologist Marius Barbeau.
Weighing one ton, the art will make its way from Scotland to the Nass Valley in Canada in September.
Following months of preparatory work, a delegation of family members and supporters from the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government travelled to Edinburgh to hold a spiritual ceremony on Sunday, preparing the memorial pole for its journey home.
It will be transported to Terrace, and then driven in a family procession to the Nisg̱a’a Village of Lax̱g̱alts’ap, then be housed at the Hli G̱oothl Wilp-Adoḵshl Nisg̱a’a museum after a public arrival ceremony on Sept. 29, with a Nisg̱a’a feast to follow.
The pole will be raised in the following days and available for public viewing later in October.
In 1860, House of Ni’isjoohl Matriarch Joanna Moody, from the G̱anada (frog clan), commissioned the pole to be carved by Nisg̱a’a master carver Oyee to honor her family member Ts’awit, who was next in line to be chief.
“The great significance of the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole to the Nisga’a people and their community was made clear to me when I met with their representatives last year,” said Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary Angus Robertson.
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“I’m grateful to all parties for the work that has been undertaken to make it happen.”
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