03/20/2012 03:51 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Rare First Nations club donated to UBC

A rare ceremonial club given to explorer Captain James Cook by a Canadian First Nation was donated to the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology on Tuesday.

The club, donated by the Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts, was given to Cook by the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island’s west coast during his final voyage in 1778.

Michael Audain, chairman of the association, said he hopes the donation will encourage the repatriation of other First Nation art works to public centres in British Columbia.

"While certain Nuu-chah-nulth objects collected by Cook exist in museums abroad — for example, in London, Berlin, and Vienna — this is the first and only in Canada," he said.

"This ceremonial club has immense historical and cultural value. I am delighted to play a part in its return to Canada’s West Coast."

The club was carved from yew wood in the shape of a hand holding a sphere in the mid-1700s, placing it within the last generation of traditional objects created before European contact.

Recently purchased through a private dealer in New York, the club is valued at $1.2 million and considered the oldest known and most finely executed club of this style.

"Ijust felt that here was the most important object that I will ever encounter and so I consider myself very fortunate to be able to acquire it for this wonderful museum," Audain said.

The club will be displayed at MOA in its Multiversity Galleries, which house more than 10,000 objects from around the world.