Nisga’a Pole to Return to the Nass Valley After 94 Years

August 01, 2023
Photo Credit: Neil Hanna

“We are grateful to collectively tell a new story that turns the colonial gaze onto itself by acknowledging the complexities of our pole’s theft, its intergenerational absence from our community and the persistence needed to ensure that justice for our ancestors prevails. This new story also highlights the responsible commitments made by many who have demonstrated to our global community that it is possible to do the right thing by returning our ancestors, cultural treasures and belongings back to us, their rightful relatives.” – Sigidimnak’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit, Dr. Amy Parent

Press Release republished with permission from Nisga’a Lisims GovernmentNational Museums Scotland

AUG. 1, 2023 (NASS VALLEY, CANADA/EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND) — The Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government (NLG) and National Museums Scotland (NMS) announce that the House of Ni’isjoohl memorial pole will return home to the Nass Valley this September, in a historic moment for reconciliation. The rematriation of the pole is the result of a year-long discussion and close collaboration between the Nisg̱a’a Nation and the museum.

The term “rematriation” reframes the concept of “repatriation” by grounding the process of recovering belongings in Indigenous law — and is more closely in alignment with Nisg̱a’a matrilineal society.

Following months of preparatory work, a delegation of family members and supporters from the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government will travel to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in late August to oversee the start of the return. A closed spiritual ceremony will be held on Aug. 28 to prepare the pole for its journey home. The delegation will include: Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl (Chief Earl Stephens), Sigidimnaḵ’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit (Dr. Amy Parent), Shawna Mackay, Sim’oogit Duuk (Chief William Moore), Sim’oogit Laay̓ (Chief Bruce Haldane), Mmihlgum Maakskwhl G̱akw (Pamela Brown), and NLG Representatives Nisg̱a’a Nation President Eva Clayton- Nox̱s Wil Luug̱aamiks Hloḵs, Apdii Lax̱ha (Andrew Robinson), Theresa Schober (Nisg̱a’a Museum Curator and Director), Laax̱Yee (Bobby Clark, Director of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations.

The 37-foot, hand-carved pole will be transported to Terrace, British Columbia, and then driven in a family procession to the Nisg̱a’a Village of Lax̱g̱alts’ap in the Nass Valley where it will be housed at Hli G̱oothl Wilp-Adoḵshl Nisg̱a’a - the Nisg̱a’a Museum. A public arrival ceremony will be held at Hli G̱oothl Wilp-Adoḵshl Nisg̱a’a on Sept. 29, with the pole still enclosed within its protective box with a Nisg̱a’a feast to follow. The pole will be raised in the following days and available for the public to view later in October.

The memorial pole belongs to the House of Ni’isjoohl from the G̱anada (frog clan) in the Nisg̱a’a Nation. In 1860, House of Ni’isjoohl Matriarch Joanna Moody commissioned the pole to be carved by Nisg̱a’a master carver Oyee to honour her family member Ts’awit, who was next in line to be chief. Ts’awit was also a warrior who died protecting his family and nation.