This article was written and shared with the Royal BC Museum by members of the Heiltsuk First Nation
Due to Covid restrictions, a small delegation of chiefs, council members and working group members conducted a private eagle-down blessing ceremony at RBCM on April 12, 2022. The ceremony took place at the RBCM outdoors next to a Glass house structure where one of the ancestral items was on public display.
The ceremony was coordinated by (Siemthlut) Michelle Washington, ICAR Repatriation Specialist.
It was also attended by involved staff members from the RBCM, BCMA, and representatives from the local Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
The most important part of this repatriation is the safe return of these ancestral carvings to our Nation’s territory. They were removed from their sacred burial context in the late 1800’s before laws were put into place prohibiting the disturbance of sites.
Each of these sacred ancestral items was removed from ancient Heiltsuk burial grounds and later purchased by the RBCM in 1893. They carry great significance to the Haíɫzaqv people as they are a link to our past and are a visual representation of ancient Heiltsuk art form.
- Boston Pole - This is an 8-foot mortuary pole (H̓l̓áxvƛṇ́) of Chief Boston/Gáluyaǧmi that was removed from a grave site near Q̓ḷ́c.
- Yx̌víwa- This frontlet was the property of a deceased Heiltsuk chief and was removed from a grave site near Q̓ḷ́c.
- The H̓álac̓i (from burial box) - This carved panel was removed from a grave site in W̓u̓íƛ̓itx̌v territory.
After their long-awaited journey home, the ancestral items were welcomed home into the Gvúkva’aus Haíɫzaqv (Bighouse) on April 17th, 2022.
Ian Reid conducted the ceremony on our Nations behalf talking to the ancestral carvings and the singers sang songs to awaken their spirits after being away for so long. Bighouse Manager, Fred White and Max Johnson coordinated the logistics on our behalf. So many people and entities all made this happen in a respectful way following protocols and customs.
Respectfully on behalf of the Working Group
Elroy White, Repatriation Coordinator
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