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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 17:54 GMT
Totem returned to Canadian tribe
A replica of the totem pole outside the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, Sweden
The Swedish museum got a hand-carved replica in exchange
A Canadian tribe has recovered a totem pole that was taken from them in the 1920s and was on display in Sweden.

The nine-metre (30-foot) high artefact is one of most significant treasures of the Haisla nation of British Columbia.

It was erected in 1876 at the mouth of the Kitlope River in north-western Canada to honour a spirit for saving the tribe from a smallpox epidemic.

The pole had been on display at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm for more than seven decades.

Members of the Haisla tribe and Swedish officials were at the formal handover ceremony at the museum.

To the sound of drum beats and chants, the piece honouring the forest spirit Tsoda was lifted onto a truck outside the Stockholm museum on Tuesday.

"The old pole has been set free," said Louisa Smith, a spokeswoman for the tribe.

Preservation

The artefact - which is made of red cedar wood - became a centrepiece of the museum's Native Americans exhibit, but the indigenous group demanded it back claiming it was stolen.

The Swedish government decided to repatriate it in 1994.

But the process took time because the museum sought a guarantee that it would be properly preserved at an indoor facility.

As gesture of goodwill, the Haisla tribe delivered a hand-carved replica to the museum.

The original artefact will be put on a boat and taken to Canada, where it is expected to arrive in mid-June.

The Haisla tribe said the pole would be put on display for the public at cultural centre to be constructed in the village of Kitamaat, British Columbia. In the meantime it would be stored in a local school.


SEE ALSO:
Abuse payout for native Canadians
23 Nov 05 |  Americas
Canada's troubled native children
31 Jul 02 |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
01 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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