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.
Watch: Nuxalk First Nation’s totem pole begins repatriation journey from RBCM (Feb. 13, 2023)
Nuxalk First Nation Chief Deric Snow (Snuxyaltwa) is a descendent of the man who carved the totem 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.
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 to Nuxalk Nation land in Bella Coola.
It was an emotional day for Nuxalk Nation members, who felt a combination of joy and sadness over the long journey the artifact took to return to its rightful land.
“I feel teary eyed right now, and I’m happy and sad at the same time,” Snow at the time. “My spirit is guiding me, this is just the beginning but to be at the beginning we’re having, I can tell our people are just full of joy and our ancestors are rejoicing.”
“Oh my goodness when it came down and it landed, I felt it, I felt it in my chest and in my heart, it was so powerful,” said Melissa Evans, another family member of original carver Chief Louie Snow.
Chief Deric 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.