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Totem pole returning to Bella Coola, Nuxalk territory, after decades in Victoria museum

The plan is to load the pole onto a truck on Feb. 13 in Victoria
Hereditary Chiefs Aaron Hans, Jeffery Snow and Snuxyaltwa (as known as Deric Snow) visit the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria which houses family poles. (Mercy Snow photo)

A totem pole which had been stuck in limbo at the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) in Victoria should be back in Nuxalk territory in February.

The plan is to load the pole onto a truck on Feb. 13 in Victoria. A ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Songhees and Esquimalt peoples. A few days later, the pole will be received into traditional Nuxalk territory in Bella Coola.

The pole, which had been taken from Talleomy, the original village site of the Nuxalk Nation, before the community moved to Bella Coola, has been in the First Peoples’ gallery of the RBCM for decades.

Museum officials had verbally agreed to return the pole, after a visit from four Nuxalk hereditary chiefs to the museum in October of 2019, but years later, the pole was still in the museum. The museum said the delay was a combination of logistical challenges – they didn’t know how they were going to get the towering totem pole out of the building – and COVID-related delays.

In January 2022, hereditary chief Snuxyaltwa, also known as Derek Snow filed a civil claim in the BC Supreme Court against the museum for the return of the pole, on behalf of members of his family, who are the declared rightful owners of the pole.

Snuxyaltwa said the pole was originally carved by his great-grandfather and was initially installed as an entrance pole for the Snuxualtwa family longhouse in Talleomy. He has said its return symbolizes a return of their culture.

Snuxyaltwa said the Nuxalk will be announcing official plans for its repatriation in the community soon.

Read more: Nuxalk totem pole stuck in limbo, ‘no clear path’ to remove it from Royal BC Museum

Read more: Nuxalk carve totem poles for mountaintop installation around Bella Coola to oppose mining

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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