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Cape Mudge Repatriation

 
Returning items of significant cultural heritage to indigenous people is an integral component of the Australian Museum's policy and practice. Many returns have been made to Aboriginal communities, to various Pacific Island nations and recently to Canada. The Canadian collection being returned comes from the Cape Mudge people, the southernmost band of Kwakwakak'wakw (Kwakuitl, Kwaguilth), of British Columbia. Selected pieces have been sent to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, where immediate access to the collection for indigenous people is available and where future returns, direct to the community, may be arranged.

The pieces being returned, primarily masks and costumes, are part of the large collection purchased by the Museum in 1912. The collection consists of the elaborate costumes and daily implements of a Native Canadian performance troupe brought to Australia by Colonel John Stacey for commercial performances. When the scheme proved a financial disaster, Stacey sold the collection to his accountant, Mr Wilkes, who later sold the material to the Museum. The performance troupe returned to Vancouver in 1911.

In 1987 it was agreed by the Australian Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Kwakwakak'wakw people that due to the cultural value and rarity of the collection, a pair of totem poles, an Eagle mask, a Bear mask and an Echo mask would be returned to Canada. As part of this agreement Kwakwakak'wakw artists were commissioned to produce selected replacements pieces for the Australian Museum.

A spectacular Raven's Costume, carved by the highly acclaimed Kwakwakak'wakw artist, Calvin Hunt, was the first replacement piece received. The costume was danced by Calvin at the opening of the Australian Museum's Rituals Gallery in 1988; and has since been displayed in the 1992 exhibition, The Living Mask.

In addition, a magnificent totem pole carved by Calvin's cousin, Richard Hunt has also been presented to the Australian Museum. Carved from a massive Western Red Cedar trunk with power tools and a steel hand adze, the 10m tall totem pole has pride of place in the Museum's atrium. The pole depicts three figures: a Beaver - the trade emblem of the Northwest and Hudson Bay fur companies, a Raven/Sun transformation figure - representing the Hunt's home province of British Columbia, and a Kulus, an immature Thunderbird - Richard Hunt's personal crest.

The most recent addition, also carved by Calvin Hunt, is a replica of the returned Echo Mask. Echo was a human being with the ability to imitate the sound or voice of any creature. The Echo mask has nine interchangeable mouthpieces, which allow the wearer to perform the imitations. Museum visitors will soon get to admire this exceptional piece in the Rituals Gallery.

Returning and exchanging items of cultural significance is a process that works to build relationships between Museums and indigenous communities. This particular return has forged strong ties between the Australian Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and Kwakwakak'wakw people. In addition, it has enabled the Australian Museum to display superb examples of contemporary Northwest Coast artistry; an exciting expression of the living, dynamic nature of indigenous cultures today.
Related Objects:

Related Objects


(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E021531 - 16/10/1912, post, Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E021532 - 16/10/1912, post, Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E021543 - 16/10/1912, mask, Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E021559 - 16/10/1912, mask, Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E021577 - 16/10/1912, mask, Cape Mudge, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081968-001 - 20/4/1989, pole, , Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081969-001 - 22/9/1988, mask, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081969-002 - 22/9/1988, clothing, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081969-003 - 22/9/1988, clothing, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081969-004 - 22/9/1988, clothing, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081970 - 22/9/1988, print, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E081971 - 22/9/1988, print, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E089729 - 5/4/1993, mask, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

E089730 - 5/4/1993, mask, Fort Rupert, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, America, North