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October 04 2012

Captain Cook’s Club to Head to Canadian Museum

The Vancouver Sun

John Mackie of the Vancouver Sun reports that philanthropist Michael Audain has donated a ceremonial club given to Captain James Cook by the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island in 1778 to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. ’One of the most important native artefacts in Canadian history,’ the club was offered to him by Donald Ellis, who said he wanted the work to return to a Canadian collection.

The exquisitely carved yew club represents a naturalistic hand gripping a sphere. Mr. Audain reports that ‘a tremor of excitement went thought my body’ when art dealer Donald Ellis first showed the club to him earlier this year. ’This is the most important First Nations work that I’ve ever encountered,’ he said.

Donald Ellis confirmed that he had offered the work to Mr. Audain in the hope that it would be donated to a Canadian public institution. While other works acquired or gifted to Captain Cook on his visit to Nootka Sound are now housed in museums in London, Vienna and Berlin, ‘there is not a single Cook object in a Canadian collection,’ he added.

During a press conference announcing the donation, Margarita James, president of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, described how the First Nations such ceremonial works of art ‘weren’t just objects, they weren’t just things. For this first one to be returned from the Cook collection — that’s big.’ Debra Sparrow of the Musqueam Nation said that looking at the club, ‘its like the hands of our ancestors are connected.’

The Audain Foundation for the Visual Art has so far donated about $26M to arts and cultural groups and institutions. The Nuu-chah-nulth club is ‘important in terms of world history, the history of exploring. It’s also important in terms of the culture of the Northwest Coast. There aren’t too many so-called pre-contact works in British Columbia, let alone any works from Captan James Cook,’ he closes.

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Captain Cook’s Club to Head to Canadian Museum