John Barrymore took the totem pole from its home in Alaska back in the 1930s from where it has roamed around to return to its original place.
The native tribes in America and surrounding lands faced desecration of their holy and spiritual artifacts by the new inhabitants of the land. Even in the 20th century, many mainland Americans remained ignorant of the sacred artifacts of the natives.
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One of them was the Golden-age screen legend John Barrymore. We know his granddaughter nowadays as Drew Barrymore. 84 years ago, Barrymore was yachting near the coastal Alaska in 1931.
During his trip he was impressed with a 40 feet long totem pole in an unoccupied village. Upon his instructions, the crew members sawed the artifact into three pieces and it was transported to the Barrymore Californian estate.
There it was reassembled and displayed in their garden and remained there until his death in 1942, accounts Steve Langdon; professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The piece was then purchased by another famous Hollywood actor, horror star Vincent Price. Price and his wife adorned their own garden with the totem pole until 1981, according to People. They then decided to donate it to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
That is where Langdon became aware of the item during his visit to Alaska. He recognized a photograph of Price standing next to the giant totem pole. He said that it was totally out of place in the picture.
Here was this recognizable Hollywood figure in a backyard estate with a totem pole that was surrounded by cactus. Through his research, Langdon learned that the pole was used in burial rituals, and that it at one point contained human remains.
The body it might have contained at the time of its taking was allegedly removed from the object before Barrymore put it in his garden. Langdon does not know where the remains were moved.
Officials at the Honolulu Museum of Art were not aware of the pole’s history as being stolen. In 2012 Langdon traveled to Hawaii to inspect the pole and begin the process of returning it to Alaskan tribal leaders.
The move was funded by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Process. Seven Tlingit tribal members travelled to Honolulu on Thursday, and wore lei, sang sombre songs, handed out gifts and thanked Hawaii for protecting the pole over the years.
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The pole was reportedly one of more than 100 totem poles that once stood in the old village of Tuxecan on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Now only two remain.