KUNM

UNM Makes Amends For A Stolen Totem Pole

Oct 6, 2017

If you've visited the Maxwell Museum at the University of New Mexico, you might have noticed in its side courtyard a 40-foot-tall totem pole.  That pole has been standing outside on the Albuquerque campus for over 70 years.  This year, it was brought inside, not just for a much-needed restoration but also to answer some pressing questions about its provenance. 

Research by retired UNM professor Dr. Beverly Singer and her UNM colleagues discovered that the pole was commissioned in 1907 by the Smith Family, members of the Tlowitsis Nation on Turnour Island, off the coast of British Columbia.  The pole was illegally removed from that site in 1941 by Frank Hibben, then a young anthropologist on the UNM faculty.  Dr. Singer joins us to talk about the agreement that has been made between UNM and Smith Family descendants for the pole's future.

In this longer version of the interview, Dr. Singer speaks in greater detail about her role in the research that led to information about the origins of the Smith Family Totem Pole.  She also describes the extensive restoration of the pole that was carried out this year by master carver Tom Hunt, Jr. and his apprentice Bertram Smith, from the Tlowitsis Nation.