Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

                                Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole
| 1 h 10 min

This feature-length documentary traces the journey of the Haisla people to reclaim the G'psgolox totem pole that went missing from their British Columbia village in 1929. The fate of the 19th century traditional mortuary pole remained unknown for over 60 years until it was discovered in a Stockholm museum where it is considered state property by the Swedish government.

Director Gil Cardinal combines interviews, striking imagery and rare footage of master carvers to raise questions about ownership and the meaning of Indigenous objects held in museums.

In this film, the Haisla of Kitamaat Village, B.C., tell the story of their efforts to reclaim a cultural heirloom: a mortuary totem pole taken from their ancestral lands, eventually discovered in a museum in Stockholm, Sweden. In broadcasts of the film on Swedish television the Haisla Aboriginal voice was heard and responded to. The people of Sweden put pressure on both the museum and the Swedish government to return the pole. [The pole’s return is documented in the follow-up film, Totem: Return and Renewal.]

Gil Cardinal
From the playlist: The Aboriginal Voice: the National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years

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  • director
    Gil Cardinal
  • editor
    Marke Slipp
  • director of cinematography
    Daron Donahue
  • sound recordist
    Stan Jackson
    Randy McKenzie
  • original music
    Clode Hamelin
  • sound editor
    Downy Karvonen
    Jerry Krepakevich
  • sound mix
    Kelly Cole
    Iain Pattison
  • producer
    Bonnie Thompson
    Jerry Krepakevich
  • executive producer
    Graydon McCrea

  • JRobertson

    My son was inspired by his Great Uncle Henry Robertson who carved the replicas of the G'psgolox pole for Sweden and Kitamaat people. We have lost our history but with the G'psgolox pole being return it brings hope to the children. My son, Tysone, is carving his first pole in sr.woodworking classroom along with the support of his senior woodworking teacher. He has watched this video and is now more then ever determined to be a carver like his Uncles and Great,Great grandfather and with this learn about himself,his culture and ancestors.

    JRobertson, 28 Jan 2011