Montreal vandals weren’t in ‘sober state of mind’ when totem pole hand taken: museum

The totem pole, a symbol of reconciliation and commemoration, pays tribute to children

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts says a hand taken from a totem pole last month was quietly returned to the museum overnight Tuesday.

Museum officials said the left hand of the Indigenous artwork by Kwakiutl artist Charles Joseph had been removed on Sept. 20 in an act of vandalism.

The totem pole, a symbol of reconciliation and commemoration, pays tribute to children — including the British Columbia-based Joseph — who lived through the residential school system.

The hand was returned and will allow the museum to restore the piece, which is on loan and has been in front of a museum pavilion on Sherbrooke Street since 2017.

The museum said in a statement that it has withdrawn a criminal complaint filed in relation to the theft. There was surveillance footage of the incident.

Officials said those responsible for taking the hand apologized for any pain and anger they’d caused.

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The museum released an excerpt of note left with the hand, which said they regretted their actions and added they didn’t realize the significance of the totem pole.

“At the time, we were not in a sober state of mind, and we had no idea what the totem pole was,” they wrote. “After we realized what this stood for and represented for so many people, we immediately felt sick to our stomach.”

The Canadian Press

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