Stolen totem pole returned after 80 years


The G’psgolox totem pole, stolen from the Haisla people of Kitimat in northern British Columbia nearly 80 years ago and shipped to Sweden, finally returned home Wednesday after 15 years of efforts by band members.

The 1,500-kilogram pole arrived by truck at the University of B.C.’s Museum of Anthropology, where it was welcomed with traditional song and drums by dozens of Haisla band members, young and old.

In 1872, G’psgolox, chief of the Kitlope people, as the Haisla were then known, commissioned the pole to be carved as a memorial to the devastation of small pox, a disease brought to North America by Europeans that all but wiped out the chief’s village.

For almost 50 years, the totem pole stood in the village, until it was discovered by a man named Olaf Hanssen, a Swedish consul living in Prince Rupert, B.C. In 1929, Hanssen had it cut down and shipped to Stockholm. In the early 1980s, the band learned their pole was on display in Sweden’s Museum of Ethnography, and, in 1991, they went to claim it.

Following a year of negotiations, it was agreed to pole would go home, provided the Haisla could properly care for it.