Scotland’s government and national museum have been fighting over who will pay to return a 168-year-old totem pole to the Nisga’a First Nation.
Last December, after a delegation of Nisga’a elders and representatives visited the museum to explain the significance of the Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole, Scotland agreed to return it to the coastal nation.
The pole was carved from red cedar in 1855 and tells the story of Ts’aawit, a Nisga’a chief. The Nisga’a say it was taken without consent while locals were away from their villages for the annual hunting season. The pole was removed from Nisga’a territory in 1929 by Canadian anthropologist Marius Barbeau and sold to the National Museum of Scotland, where it has been on display ever since.
It’s still there, while the museum and Scottish government have been arguing over moving costs, estimated to be nearly $1.2 million dollars. The government’s suggestion the museum try crowdfunding the move met with significant pushback, according to Scottish media, and the government has now agreed to contribute half a million dollars.
At least half of the estimated cost of the project is to construct a replacement pole for the museum’s gallery. The government says the original should be removed and returned first, and a replacement added later.
To get the pole out of the building, the museum will need to clear entire galleries and remove a window while the one-tonne totem is put in a special cradle. Roads will need to be closed as the 11-metre-long pole is taken to the airport.
Canadian Forces will help fly the pole back to Canada.
There’s no current timeline for the pole’s return to its home in the Nass Valley.