Smith Family Totem Pole
Over the course of nine months in 2017 through a collaboration among the Tlowitsis Nation, the Maxwell Museum, the Department of Anthropology, and the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies, the Smith Family Totem Pole “collected” by Frank Hibben was relocated, restored, and rededicated (blessed) at UNM’s Hibben Center. Housed at UNM since 1941 but originating in 1907 on Turnour Island, British Columbia, the pole was commissioned by hereditary chief Smith Sewid and carved by the noted artist Charlie Yakuglas James. As a result of this collaboration, the parties at UNM learned that the pole had been stolen.
This chief’s pole belonging to the Smith Family of the Tlowitsis Nation is now housed here under a newly negotiated 30-year renewable repository agreement; it was restored by Kwakwaka'wakw artists Tom Hunt Jr., and Bertram Smith. Among other critical project components it supported, the Ortiz Center provided for all visits of community members: Chief Danial Smith’s visit to the UNM campus in December 2016 to develop a Memorandum of Understanding for the project; the visit of lead carver Tom Hunt, Jr., to plan the pole’s restoration with museum staff and conservators in April 2017; the three-week campus residency of lead carver Tom Hunt, Jr. and his apprentice, Bertram Smith, for the pole’s restoration in May; and a nine-member Tlowitsis delegation led by chief Danial Smith for the pole’s blessing in September 2017. The Nation’s blessing ceremony made it safe for the pole to remain in New Mexico, while the Maxwell Museum, Anthropology Department, and Ortiz Center will welcome all future visits from family and Nation representatives to engage with their cultural heritage.