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Bringing the Ancestors Home

Hundreds of artifacts return to Nisga’a territory

The Nisga’a, people of the Nass River, have inhabited British Columbia’s lush northwest coast since time immemorial. In the late 1880s, however, much of the Nisga’a traditional territory was declared Crown land, leading the Nisga’a to petition the government to recognize their connection to and guardianship of the territory.

As a result, a historic treaty was signed in 1998, coming into effect on May 11, 2000. It was a triumphant day for the Nisga’a people. Not only did the treaty officially recognize the Nisga’a Nation and Nisga’a Lands, it opened the door for sustainable economic development and is now fuelling a cultural renaissance.

On September 13, 2010, the people of the Nisga’a Nation celebrated once again with the return of hundreds of Nisga’a artifacts from the Royal BC Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The artifacts — including headdresses, masks, rattles, blankets and a totem pole — will soon be showcased in their own permanent home, Hli Goothl Wilp-Adoks Nisga’a, the Nisga’a Museum, to be located in Laxgalts’ap, 150 kilometres northwest of Terrace, British Columbia.

A centre for sharing traditions, ideas, research and learning, the construction of this state-of-the-art facility will be financed by RBC Royal Bank. It will include archival software systems, listening booths, a computerized office space, a library and teaching centre, an executive meeting space, ongoing cultural programming and a gift shop to showcase Nisga’a art and artists.

“Many of the artifacts are sacred, living objects we will be able to share with future generations,” says Mitch Stevens, President of the Nisga’a Nation. “Repatriation of the land includes bringing our ancestors home.”