Sovereignty and Resistance

This theme offers film excerpts on land claims, management of natural resources, ancestral rights and recovery of Aboriginal cultural artefacts. It also presents images showing the resistance of Aboriginal peoples to repression by non-Aboriginal culture.


Our Nationhood

Our Nationhood 3

Our Nationhood 5

Riel Country

Riel Country 3

Riel Country 4

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole 2

Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole

2003, Director: Cardinal, Gil

excerpt 2      3 min 29 s


Description The Haisla people of Kitamaat Village are facing a dilemma. If they want to repatriate the G’psgolox pole, they have to comply with the Swedish government’s condition that it be kept in a museum. But this runs against their ancient traditions, whereby the totem pole has to be left outside so it can return to Mother Earth at the end of its days. Members of the community discuss the issues.
Questions 1. What aspects of the repatriation from Sweden of the G’psgolox pole still trouble the Haisla and Xanasiyala people of Kitamaat?

2. What compromise do the Kitamaat Elders struggle with regarding the conditions for repatriation of the G’psgolox pole from Sweden?

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

© National Film Board of Canada | Copyright | Accessibility | Credits
This web site is partly funded by Canadian Culture Online