Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

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 Aboriginal objects held in museums.

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

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

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Gil Cardinal
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
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

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