Haisla Nation, British Columbia


A 124-year-old totem pole brought to Sweden from Canada in the 1920s will be returned to its original Indigenous owners, a Swedish museum said June 6. The Haisla erected the 30-foot totem pole in 1876 on a piece of land in the Kitlope Lake in northwestern Canada to honor the spirit Tsoda for saving the tribe from a smallpox epidemic. The totem pole disappeared from the region in the 1920s after then-Swedish consul, Olof Hansson, took possession under mysterious circumstances and donated it to the Stockholm Ethnographic Museum, said Palaemona Moerner of the Vancouver-based environmental group Ecotrust Canada, which is helping the tribe retrieve the totem pole. After an extensive search, the tribe located the totem pole and demanded its return, claiming it was stolen. Hansson is dead and Moerner declined to comment. The museum contacted the government, which in 1994 decided the totem pole should be returned as a gift provided it remain indoors and be properly cared for. Environmental groups have helped the tribe raise funds for the project, and are ready to bring the pole home, Moerner said. It will be presented to the tribe at a ceremony in Kitimat in August. The tribe will send a replica to Sweden.