REPORTING · 11th November 2012
It was a night of celebration and emotion in Kitamaat Village on Saturday, October 27th. A feast was held to Celebrate the repatriation of the G'psgolox Totem Pole.
In the history of North America, there are many stories of how things were taken from the Native populace who were living here. Rarely are the stories told about how what was taken was given back.
The history of the pole was explained by Marilyn Furlan and Louisa Smith.
One of the most significant stories, for this region, is the story of the G'psgolox Totem Pole. The pole was commissioned in 1872 to honour Tsooda, a spirit who restored the family of the G'psgolox chief to life.
In 1927, the totem pole was stolen from the First Nations and sold to Sweden. It moved from museum to museum for several years. It was restored, preserved and put on display. In the late 80’s, Annie Hall requested Cecil Paul Sr. search for the missing pole.
At the time, the Curator of the Kitimat Centennial Museum was James Jones, and he was working with an exchange student Peter McNair on a Haisla Inventory Project. They discovered the pole was in Stockholm.
In the early nineties, a Haisla delegation traveled to Sweden to negotiate for the pole which was taken without consent. In 1997, the pole was offered by the Government of Sweden as a gift to the Haisla Nation. There were conditions attached but not all of them were financially viable.
In 2006, the G'psgolox Pole was returned home for an emotional reunion for the family and the members of the community. Louis stated the return of the lost totem pole allowed them to reconnect with who they are, and who their ancestors were.
“To do what is right in the eyes of our customs, our culture, that the pole that pole belongs to G'psgolox,” said Smith. “Today, the circle is complete.”
“Everything happens for a reason. The reason is usually good,” said Furlan. The Haisla First Nations were able to connect to the Sami in Europe and learn they are facing the same challenges.
The Current Chief G'psgolox, Dan Paul Senior also stepped up to give a very emotional speech about what the return of the pole means to him. He was given a standing ovation. It was expressed during the night that this sort of celebration was new to the Haisla Nation. Never before had a significant artefact been returned.
The final speaker was Chief Jasse, Sammy Robinson. He expressed the Haisla Nation had only a limited number of historical artefacts, and no place in which they could be kept.
Just before the Spirit of the Kitlope Dancers were about to go on, the earth began to shake as the Earthquake hit, perhaps a final sign of the significance of the event.
There were many people to thank for bringing the G'psgolox back and taking care of it. Representatives of the companies who helped bring the pole back to its home were given special thanks and commemorative photograph of Chief G'psgolox with the pole.
The pole is currently located in an undisclosed location. A replica of G'psgolox has been raised where it used to stand. A second replica has been sent to Sweden to stand in its place.