Canadian Memorial Pole returns home
3rd October, 2023

A sacred Memorial Pole has been returned to Canada’s Nisga’a Nation after it was stolen and sold to the National Museum of Scotland nearly 100 years ago.

Price & Myers worked with fine art handlers Mtec and the Museum to assist in the return of the pole to the Nation, on the west coast of Canada. It stood as a major exhibit at the Museum since 1929.

Following a private spiritual ceremony in Edinburgh by a group of Nisga’a people in early September, the 11 metre, one-tonne pole carved in 1855, was transported by a Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft to its ancestral home.

To prepare for the move, Price & Myers engineers first 3D-scanned the totem and designed a lift-and-transport frame and cradle that is connected to existing fixings at the back of the pole. The memorial is carved from one single piece of hollow Red Cedar, with an additional piece representing a Nisga’a warrior, mounted to its crown. 

Once the frame was affixed and secured, the pole was lowered from vertical to horizontal and wheeled through the museum before being lifted through a window to a waiting transport vehicle. Careful route-planning was required, including the clearing out of entire galleries, to ensure no risk of damage to the pole or other museum exhibits.

Structural engineer and Partner at Price & Myers, Tim Lucas acknowledged the privilege in preparing the Memorial Pole for relocation. ‘It’s quite nerve-racking to be responsible for protecting and not damaging this precious object, that people on the other side of the world have been longing to get back home.’

Sigidimnak Noxs Ts’aawit, the research chair in indigenous education and governance at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said she was ‘really pleased’ that the pole returned to its home where ‘its spiritual, cultural, and historical significance is most keenly felt.’

Read the BBC article here.

See the five-step lift-and-transport process below.