About 100 years ago, a hand-carved totem pole was cut in the Naas Valley in northwestern British Columbia, Canada.
The 36-foot-tall pole was carved from red cedar in the 1860s to honor Ts’wawit, a warrior of the indigenous Nisga’a nation who was in line to become chief before being killed in conflict.
A Canadian anthropologist, Marius BarbeauOversaw the removal of the memorial pole in the summer of 1929, when the Nisga’a people were away from their village Annual hunting, fishing and harvesting trips according to the Nisga’a government.
Mr Barbeau shipped the pole to a buyer more than 4,000 miles away: the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh — today known as the National Museum of Scotland.
This week, after a decade-long campaign by members of the Nisga’a Nation, the monument finally began its long journey.
A Nisga’a delegation dressed in traditional red and black clothing walked through the museum’s grand gallery on Monday, past a Japanese Buddha, a Sudanese sculpture and a banquet bowl from the Pacific Ocean, before finally reaching the totem pole, where they performed a spiritual ceremony before returning to Canada. to prepare
The Nisga’ara believe that a soul resides within the pole and regard it as a being rather than matter. Amy is the guardian, whose Nisga’a name is Knox Ts’aawit. Monday’s event was to put it to sleep before it started its journey home.
“We have a living family member who has been locked up in a museum,” said Dr Parent, associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University. He added that polar deeply connected to their history.
Other museums in Britain have returned or promised to return items from their collections, but Monday was among the first returns of items from a British national institution, according to a spokesman for the National Museum of Scotland.
Around the world, as awareness of imperialist looting grows, countries are beginning to return artifacts. Germany promised to return more than 1,000 bronzes to Nigeria last year. Italy sent Greece a piece of the Parthenon which was kept in a museum in Sicily for over 200 years and in 2021, President Emmanuel Macron returned 26 items from France to Benin.
But Britain was less keen on the matter, as the British Museum prevented the return of the Elgin marbles that decorated the Parthenon in Athens. The artifacts are considered among the museum’s highlights, and museum leaders argue that they were acquired legally. This is also stated in an Act governing the British Museum Cannot give away items from his collection If they are not “untenable”.
But the National Museum of Scotland is governed by a different law which allows the government to allow museums to return artefacts under certain conditions.
“This is a truly historic step for Scotland” said Andrew Robinson, representative of the Nisga’a government who attended the event. “To provide some tangible form of reconciliation.”
Recently, the museum established that Mr. Barbeau, the anthropologist, did not acquire the pole from a person who had the power to sell it.
“It was a Really unethical time to acquire aboriginal stuff” Dr. Parent said the pole is a member of the family, referring to the years in which First Nations were victims of what many call genocide.
The Scottish government will partly fund the totem’s transport, said John Giblin, the museum’s curator of global art, culture and design. It will be installed at the Nisga’a Museum in Naas Valley and will be welcomed with an arrival ceremony next month.
The delegation used the term “resettlement” rather than “repatriation” to reflect the marital structure of the Nisga’a Nation.
Mr Robinson said he appreciated the commitment of the National Museum of Scotland and he hoped other museums around the world that still held Aboriginal artefacts would follow suit.
“All these items actually belong to people,” he said. “And they were unjustly removed from our country“