2023 Princeton Nisga’a Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole Rematriation Team receives BCHF Award of Merit

Nisga’a Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole Rematriation Team receives BCHF Award of Merit

Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl (Chief Earl Stephens) and Noxs Ts’aawit (Dr. Amy Parent) stand with the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole in the National Museum of Scotland on Aug. 22, 2022. (Neil Hanna Photography)

The British Columbia Historical Federation is pleased to announce that Sigidimnak Nox Ts’aawit Dr. Amy Parent and the Nisga’a Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole Rematriation team are recipients of an Award of Merit.  

Awards of Merit are awarded to individuals and organizations who have made a significant contribution to the study or promotion of British Columbia History. 

Through their steadfast determination to request the rematriation of the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole to Nisga’a territory without conditions, the team are cutting the path and setting the bar for the return of stolen cultural belongings and ancestors in British Columbia. The pole, belonging to the House of Ni’isjoohl from the Ganda (frog clan) in the Nisga’a Nation, was stolen in 1929 by anthropologist Marius Barbeau and sold to the Royal Scottish Museum (today known as the National Museum of Scotland). 

“In Nisga’a culture, we believe that this pole is alive with the spirits of our ancestor,” said Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl, Chief Earl Stephens. “After nearly 100 years, we are finally able to bring our dear relative home to rest on Nisga’a lands. In means so much for us to have the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole returned to us, so that we can connect our family, nation and our future generations with our living history.”  

Together, Sigidimnak Nox Ts’aawit Dr. Amy Parent, and the Nisga’a Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole Rematriation team, requested the pole’s return from the National Museum of Scotland on behalf of the Nisga’a Nation. Navigating differing cultural worldviews, the team successfully collaborated with the Museum to find compromises to longstanding museological protocols and challenged colonial practices which have been used to retain and withhold belongings and ancestors from their communities.  

The return of the pole to the Nisga’a People corrects a historic wrong and establishes a frame of reference through which Indigenous communities across British Columbia can find hope: “The repatriation of the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole to our family and Nation brings important legislation, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to life in a powerful way”, Parent added. “We hope that our story inspires our Indigenous relatives around the world to know that the impossible is possible when challenging colonial structures for the repatriation of our stolen cultural treasures. Justice for our ancestors will prevail.” 

The rematriation team consists of Sigidimnak Nox Ts’aawit (Dr. Amy Parent), Chief Ni’isjoohl (Chief Earl Stephens), Shawna Mackay from the House of Ni’isjooh, Hlgu Aama Gat (Donald Leeson, Chief Councillor, Laxgalt’sap Village Government), Apdii Laxha (Andrew Robinson, Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government Industry Relations Manager), Mmihlgum Maakskwhl Gakw (Pamela Brown) and Theresa Schober (Curator and Director of the Nisg̱a’a Museum). 

The award was presented at the Federation’s annual conference awards gala on July 22.