138 years after an indigenous home post was cut down and ordered to be burned by missionaries, it was sold under duress, damaged, displayed as a “historical curiosity”, donated to a museum, and then Packed in storage for decades.
Today, the Long House Post, of “incredible” cultural value for the Gitsaara Nation on the north coast of British Columbia, is on its way home.
The 3-meter-tall, 180-kilogram, black-and-red house post was shipped from Harvard University in Massachusetts and is expected to arrive in Prince Rupert next month.
The post features an ocean grizzly bear and its cubs. These are his two main family crests for domestic homes.
Dustin Johnson, cultural programs manager for Gitsaala Nation, said returning home is an inspiration for the country because it creates a connection to one’s ancestors.
He said the country hosted the meeting after words that Harvard’s Peabody Museum agreed to return the post and several elders, including a 96-year-old member, recalled the dark history of the destruction of their culture. Told.
“The trauma they saw, the grief of seeing their great-grandparents forced to cut down and burn utility poles because of Christian missionaries, the colonial government,” Johnson said.
“So the return of this one person not only symbolizes taking back what we have, but also to claim our place back in the world. It is like a country rising again as a symbol of pride, as a symbol of decolonization, by taking back the .”
The house stilts are one of the four stilts that were in the tenement of the Grizzly Bear House.
Mr Johnson said Christian missionaries threatened and forced indigenous leaders to convert to Christianity and destroyed their own culture. The home post was sold “under duress,” he said.
“And under threat, we were told to cut down and burn the totem pole, but my ancestors refused to burn it down because they had already lost so much. This helped.”
Sold to New England Fisheries Company in 1885.
Jane Pickering, director of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, said there is a “dark history” surrounding the post, as it was brought to the United States during Canada’s Potluck Ban, which sought to assimilate indigenous peoples. ‘, he said.
Pickering said fishing companies used the posts as ornaments in a “totally inappropriate” way.
Johnson said the post was damaged when the company inserted the rod to project the light.
The housepost reached the museum when former curator Charles Clarke Willoughby approached the fishing company to negotiate a donation.
The post was displayed on the first floor of the museum until it was put into storage in 2002.
Pickering said he learned of its “incredibly symbolic cultural value” until 2021 when the museum was contacted by the Ghitsaala Nation to return the post.
“I think it’s the only one of its type that has survived to this day, because so much was destroyed,” Pickering said.
Johnson said the house posts tell stories and show territorial markers for house groups and their associated extended families.
“It’s a way of recognizing each other just by what the house pillars and totem pole crests look like.”
Pickering said the university has begun to think about its relationships and responsibilities with indigenous communities in the United States and abroad, and the university has published a guide on the return of cultural property owned by Harvard.
“That’s why this kind of cultural value was so important that the university decided to give it back.”
Johnson said a big celebration will be held in April to celebrate the rise of the post.
The state said the post will be displayed at Prince Rupert’s Museum of Northern British Columbia until a museum is built in the village of Lax Klan.
Mr Johnson said the House post is just one of 73 items the country hopes to bring back in the next few years.
“And that’s what we know at this point, there’s still a lot more,” Johnson said.
He said the country was building a long house in the next few years and the intention was to house all his belongings there for educational purposes.
— Nono Shen, Canadian Press