A First Nations chief says the Royal BC Museum’s alleged failure to return his great-grandfather’s totem pole has been hurtful to members of his community, more than two years after the museum promised to get rid of it. the artifact.
Hereditary Chief Snuxyaltwa (Deric Snow) of the Nuxalk First Nation, located near Bella Coola on British Columbia’s central coast, says he filed a lawsuit in January against the museum in Victoria for failing to return the totem carved by late Louie Snow, the former owner of the Snuxyaltwa title, after the nation’s leaders visited the museum in October 2019 ask for his return.
“It’s a nice perch,” Snuxyaltwa told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC. sunrise north. “It does not belong to the Royal Museum, it does not belong to any museum.”
The artifact was a gate post to the Snuxyaltwa family longhouse in Talleomy (South Bentinck) before Nuxalk members moved to Bella Coola to escape the smallpox epidemic in the early 1900s. lost the totem pole at this time.
The artifact ended up in the Royal BC Museum, where it was displayed in the Totem Hall on the third floor of the museum for years until January, when the entire floor was closed as part of the efforts of the museum to decolonize its exhibition.
“They must return the totem”
The museum has made the repatriation of totem poles a priority in recent years, partly in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and also because of the British Columbia government’s commitment to implement the Declaration of United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
But as Snuxyaltwa said in his civil complaint filed with the B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 13, the museum’s former CEO, Jack Lohman, agreed to return the artifact, but made no significant progress in achieving this, despite multiple requests.
Snuxyaltwa argues that the totem pole should have been returned to the Nuxalk First Nation when the museum’s third floor closed.
“If they want to start over and do something good, they should return all these different items to the people they stole them from,” he said.
“They must return the totem pole to Bella Coola, whatever condition it is in.”
Ongoing repatriation of Indigenous artifacts
The Royal BC Museum declined CBC’s request for a response to Snuxyaltwa’s comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit.
But new CEO Alicia Dubois, who replaced Lohman two months ago after stepping down last February amid allegations of racism against Indigenous staff, says as an Indigenous person she will continue the museum’s efforts to repatriate artifacts to First Nations.
“This is very important work, and it starts with making sure the Indigenous team … has the space to do this work in a very meaningful way,” Dubois told guest host Kathryn Marlow on CBC on Tuesday. On the island.
“What I really hope to create is a sense of collective responsibility and collective solutions where everyone is engaged.”
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