Delegates from the Nisga’a Nation with the Ni’isjoohl Memorial Pole. Image credit Duncan McGlynn (3)

Nisg̱a’a pole returns to the Nass Valley after 94 years

The House of Ni’isjoohl memorial pole makes its way home from Scotland as the first totem pole rematriated from the United Kingdom 

A selection of press images can be found here

AUG. 28 2023 (NASS VALLEY, CANADA/EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND) — The Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government (NLG) and National Museums Scotland (NMS) announce that the House of Ni’isjoohl memorial pole will return home to the Nass Valley this September, in a historic moment for reconciliation. The rematriation of the pole is the result of a year-long discussion and close collaboration between the Nisg̱a’a Nation and the museum.  

The term “rematriation” reframes the concept of “repatriation” by grounding the process of recovering belongings in Indigenous law — and is more closely in alignment with Nisga’a matrilineal society.  

Following months of preparatory work, a delegation of family members and supporters from the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government have travelled to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to oversee the start of the return. A closed spiritual ceremony was held on Aug. 28, to prepare the pole for its journey home. The delegation included: Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl (Chief Earl Stephens), Sigidimnaḵ’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit (Dr. Amy Parent), Shawna Mackay, Sim’oogit Duuk (Chief William Moore), Sim’oogit Laay̓ (Chief Bruce Haldane), Mmihlgum Maakskwhl G̱akw (Pamela Brown), and NLG Representatives Apdii Lax̱ha (Andrew Robinson), Theresa Schober (Nisg̱a’a Museum Curator and Director), Laax̱ Yee (Bobby Clark, Director of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations. 

The 37-foot, hand-carved pole will be transported to Terrace, British Columbia, and then driven in a family procession to the Nisg̱a’a Village of Lax̱g̱alts’ap in the Nass Valley where it will be housed at Hli G̱oothl Wilp-Adoḵshl Nisg̱a’a - the Nisga’a Museum. A public arrival ceremony will be held at Hli G̱oothl Wilp-Adoḵshl Nisg̱a’a on Sept. 29, with the pole still enclosed within its protective box with a Nisg̱a’a feast to follow. The pole will be raised in the following days and available for the public to view later in October. 

The memorial pole belongs to the House of Ni’isjoohl from the G̱anada (frog clan) in the Nisg̱a’a Nation. In 1860, House of Ni’isjoohl Matriarch Joanna Moody commissioned the pole to be carved by Nisg̱a’a master carver Oyee to honour her family member Ts’awit, who was next in line to be chief. Ts’awit was also a warrior who died protecting his family and nation. 


Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl, Chief Earl Stephens: “In Nisg̱a’a culture, we believe that this pole is alive with the spirit of our ancestors. After nearly 100 years, we are finally able to bring our dear relative home to rest on Nisg̱a’a lands. It 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.” 

Sigidimnak’ Noxs Ts’aawit, Dr. Amy Parent: “We are grateful to collectively tell a new story that turns the colonial gaze onto itself by acknowledging the complexities of our pole’s theft, its intergenerational absence from our community and the persistence needed to ensure that justice for our ancestors prevails. This new story also highlights the responsible commitments made by many who have demonstrated to our global community that it is possible to do the right thing by returning our ancestors, cultural treasures and belongings back to us, their rightful relatives.” 

Eva Clayton, President of Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government: “Our hearts are at peace knowing that we are changing history with a precedent-setting transformational story of collaboration with the people of Scotland and Canada. It is an honour for the Nisg̱a’a Nation to be standing beside Wilp Ni’isjoohl at this historic moment in time. We are grateful to be alongside them, while having our treaty partners next to us to unwind some of the injustices to our history as Nisg̱a’a people.” 

Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland: 

“Since the transfer of the Memorial Pole was agreed last December, our teams have been planning the complex task of carefully lowering and transporting it in what is the first return of its type by a UK national institution. We are pleased to have reached the point where that work is now underway, and we are delighted to have welcomed the Nisga’a delegation to the Museum before we bid the Pole farewell.”   

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson:  
 “The great significance of the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole to the Nisga’a people and their community was made clear to me when I met with their representatives last year and I was pleased to have been able to provide the necessary ministerial consent to enable its return. 

“Today’s ceremony is the next step in that journey, following months of careful planning and dialogue between National Museums Scotland and the Nisga’a Nation, and I’m grateful to all parties for the work that has been undertaken to make it happen.”

Notes to editors

About Nisga’a Nation 

Proud British Columbians and Canadians, Nisg̱a’a citizens are responsible for building and maintaining our own institutions. The Nisg̱a’a Nation is represented by Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government (NLG) — a modern, forward-thinking administration based on traditional culture and values. Nisg̱a’a Government has the authority to pass laws on a broad range of matters. At the same time, Nisg̱a’a lawmaking authority is concurrent with federal and provincial authority. Designed to assure democracy, transparency, and accountability, Nisg̱a’a Government is comprised of NLG, the four Nisg̱a’a Village Governments, and three Urban Locals. 


About National Museums Scotland 

National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display. National Museums Scotland is committed to revealing and sharing the full range of stories about imperial and colonial activities associated with its collections: Colonial histories and legacies in our museums (   

Twitter: @NtlMuseumsScot   
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Press contact 

Ines Min 

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Bruce Blacklaw, National Museums Scotland 

+44 131 247 4165