Sunday, 25 April 2010


Continuing on from Totem: The Return Of The G’psgolox Pole, made four years earlier, Totem: Return And Renewal details the return of an important mortuary totem pole to its rightful home amongst the Haisla people of Canada. The pole had been sold by an unnamed individual to Sweden, where it formed the centrepiece of a museum of ethnographic curiosities. The film opens with an impassioned prayer celebrating its homecoming, and tears are shed at every stage of the pole’s journey from Sweden to the Haisla village of Kitimaat. The narrator recaps the history carved into the pole as it is repatriated to rapturous clamour. The pole is kept horizontally in the Kitimaat mall, in wait for the construction of a Haisla cultural centre where it will remain entombed.

The film’s title suggests that the pole’s importance goes beyond mere symbolism, as the totem refreshes the identity of its people and serves as a teaching tool for the next generation, although the children in the film appear mostly bemused by its presence. Gil Cardinal, the director responsible for both documentaries, understands the role of this second film, keeping it short at just over twenty minutes to act as a triumphant epilogue to the G’psgolox story. In this way Return And Renewal scarcely stands on its own as a film, although it does offer new insight on the future of the pole, as well as introducing the new icon of the pole’s circular yoke which is hung up in the local school.

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