In a press release by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the good news at hand as been shared with us: the left hand of the totem pole that sits outside the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavillion has finally been returned.
The hand was stolen on Friday, September 20th, 2019 and the city of Montreal quickly began to mourn the lost part of such an important cultural landmark in our city.
At the time there was no indication of who had taken the hand or even exactly when. All we knew was it was missing, and that the Museum hoped desperately that whoever had taken it would return it to its rightful place soon.
And lucky for us all, that's exactly what happened.
In a note that all but proves the power of art, the thieves (who the museum so kindly refers to as "the people who removed the hand") admitted that they were "not in a sober state of mind," and that they were "ignorant" of what the totem pole symbolized.
After press attention increased, the thieves "realized what [the totem pole] stood for and what it represented for so many people," they even go on to say they felt "sick" to their stomachs upon realized the potential hurt they had caused.
According to the museum, the people who took the hand "carefully deposited it on the Museum's doorstep on the night of October 1" or potentially in the early hours of October 2.
The excerpt of the note provided by the museum states:
“Firstly, we would like to apologize to all those who were offended. At the time, we were not in a sober state of mind, and we had no idea what the totem pole was ... After we realized what this stood for and represented for so many people, we immediately felt sick to our stomach ... We would like to let all know that in NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM was this done in spite ... We were simply ignorant of what it symbolized, and have decided we 100% needed to return it. ... We are sorry, so sorry for any pain and anger we have caused. Love for all people.”
The Museum has graciously accepted this apology, as they note it is "full of remorse," and have officially withdrawn their complaint.
Even more powerful, though, is the Museum's rightful point that this whole ordeal "ended on a positive note, demonstrating once again the power of art."
And isn't that the truth?
Without this experience, those who took the hand may have never realized the powerful message the totem pole stood for. Reconciliation and commemoration of a dark time in Canadian history that we carry like a shadow to this day.
Now, think of these hooligans in the future... they are far more likely to stand up against other acts of disturbance or dismissal in the sphere of reparations with Indigenous communities. Perhaps this will spark them to get involved or take a class (... once the hangover subsides).
So, Nathalie Bondil, the Director General and Chief Curator of the MMFA put it perfectly in her statement:
“It is reassuring to observe the return of wisdom and clarity following an evening of inebriety… The letter of sincere apology that we received from the transient delinquents shows us that art educates and sensitizes us to all of the most important issues, notably our reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Thank you to those brought the hand back. Thank you to the many people who spread our message, the web surfers, the media, and the Mayor of Montreal! Thank you to everyone… for the hand you played.”