June 12th, 2024

Celebration marks repatriation of B.C. totem to Nuxalk Nation after century-long wait

By The Canadian Press on February 20, 2023.

Family, friends and hereditary chiefs gather in a ceremony in Victoria on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, to witness the historical repatriation of the Nuxalk Nation totem pole after years of effort to release the pole back to the nation from the Royal BC Museum. The pole that embodies the history and culture of the Nuxalk Nation is being welcomed back to its ancestral home in Bella Coola, more than 100 years after it was taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

BELLA COOLA, B.C. – A carved pole that embodies the history and culture of a British Columbia First Nation is being welcomed back to its ancestral home, more than 100 years after it was taken.

Dancing and feasting are among the celebrations expected in the central coast community of Bella Coola as the Nuxalk Nation marks the repatriation of the totem pole.

Carved in the mid-1800s as an entrance pole to a long house, the Snow family pole was later used as a marker for a family grave but was taken without permission in 1913 and added to a collection of the Royal B.C. Museum.

Chief Deric Snow is a descendent of the man who carved the pole and says the return is a good first step because his great-grandfather’s spirit remains inside the totem and cannot be at rest until the pole is returned home.

Snow says other Nuxalk artifacts, including canoes and totems, remain at the Royal B.C. Museum and in other museums around the world, and the First Nation continues to work for their return.

Ceremonies were held last week in Victoria as the totem was removed from the museum and loaded onto a truck for the roughly 1,000-kilometre drive back to Bella Coola.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2023.

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