Thursday, March 16, 2006

Northwest Native Indian Art Totem Pole Returned to Canada

A 134 year old Northwest Native Indian art totem pole is being returned to British Columbia, Canada after being on display for decades at a museum in Stockholm, Sweden. A 15-member delegation of the Haisla Canadian First Nation was on hand in Stockholm to receive the totem pole.

The totem pole was brought to Sweden from Canada in the 1920s. It is believed to be the first time a cultural artifact has been voluntarily returned directly to a Canadian Native Indian group from a collection outside North America.

The Northwest Native Indian Haisla band members beat drums and chanted as the nine-metre totem pole was loaded onto a truck outside Stockholm's Museum of Ethnography.

"The old pole has been set free," said Haisla band spokeswoman Louisa Smith. "It is no longer in shackles."

The Northwest Native Indian Haisla group erected the totem pole in 1872 at the mouth of the Kitlope River, just north of Vancouver Island, to honour their forest spirit for saving the tribe from a smallpox epidemic. It disappeared from the site under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s. A Swedish diplomat is believed to have taken the totem pole back home and donated it to the museum, where it has been on display for 77 years.

In return for the original, the Haisla carved a replacement totem pole for the museum. Smith said the new pole will serve as a symbolic link between the Canadian Native Indian Haisla and the people of Sweden.

The original pole will travel by ship to Vancouver. It will eventually be housed in a Northwest Native Indian cultural centre in Kitimat, B.C.

For more information on these types of majestic Native Indian structures, see Native Indian Totem Poles.

For more Canadian Native art, see Northwest Native Indian Art.

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