The House of Ni’isjoohl memorial pole makes its way home from Scotland as the first totem pole rematriated from the United Kingdom.
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 Nisga’a matrilineal society.
Following months of preparatory work, a delegation of family members and supporters from the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government have travelled to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to oversee the start of the return. A closed spiritual ceremony was held on Aug. 28, to prepare the pole for its journey home. The delegation included: 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 Apdii Lax̱ha (Andrew Robinson), Theresa Schober (Nisg̱a’a Museum Curator and Director), Laax̱ Yee (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 Nisga’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.
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