Cinema and Representation

This theme focuses on the ways in which Aboriginal peoples have been represented in NFB documentaries. Film excerpts illustrate how the representation of Aboriginal peoples has evolved over the last fifty years.


Caribou Hunters

Caribou Hunters 1

César's Bark Canoe/César et son Canot d'écorce

César's Bark Canoe/César et son Canot d'écorce 1

Circle of the Sun

Circle of the Sun 2

The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson's Bay Company

The Other Side of the Ledger: An Indian View of the Hudson's Bay Company 2

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole 1

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

2003, Director: Cardinal, Gil

excerpt 1      4 min 58 s


Description In the last few decades, Aboriginal communities have been committed to reclaiming artefacts taken without consent for museum collections worldwide. Métis filmmaker Gil Cardinal reveals the steadfast determination of the Haisla to regain ownership of the G’psgolox totem pole taken from their Kitamaat community in northwestern British Columbia by the Swedish in 1929.

1. What legal and ethical arguments were put forward regarding the repatriation of the G’psgolox pole? Explore both perspectives; that of the Swedish government and the Haisla and Henaaksiala people of Kitamaat, British Columbia.

2. What analogy making reference to the preservation of a Swedish warship does Gerald Amos of Kitamaat use to further the cause of repatriating the totem pole? Why was this strategy successful?

About This Film


In 1929, the Haisla people of northwestern British Columbia returned from a fishing trip to find a 9-metre-high totem pole, known as the G'psgolox pole, severed at the base and removed from their village. The fate of the 19th-century pole remained unknown to the Haisla for over sixty years.

Director Gil Cardinal reveals the Haisla's 1991 discovery of the pole in a Stockholm museum, where it is considered state property by the Swedish government.

From the lush rainforest near Kitamaat Village, BC, to the National Museum of Ethnography in Sweden, the documentary traces the fascinating journey of the Haisla to reclaim the traditional mortuary pole. Bringing to light a powerful story of cultural rejuvenation, the film raises provocative questions about the ownership and meaning of Aboriginal objects held in museums.

Cardinal skilfully layers compelling interviews, striking imagery and rare footage of master carvers as they create a replica pole. The Haisla have fulfilled a promise to the museum to replace the original totem. Now, having honoured their end of the bargain, they await the return of the G'psgolox pole.

Director: Gil Cardinal
Editing: Marke Slipp
Photography: Daron Donahue
Sound: Stan Jackson
Sound: Randy McKenzie
Music: Clode Hamelin
Sound: Downy Karvonen
Sound: Jerry Krepakevich
Sound: Kelly Cole
Sound: Iain Pattison
Producer: Bonnie Thompson
Producer: Jerry Krepakevich
Producer: Graydon McCrea

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