03/20/2012 05:40 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

First Nations welcome return of ceremonial club given to Captain Cook in 1778

VANCOUVER - A rare First Nations artifact worth about $1.2 million has been returned to British Columbia after more than 230 years.

The ceremonial club, which was carved from yew wood in the shape of a hand holding a sphere, was presented by the Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island to explorer Capt. James Cook in 1778.

It was recently bought through a private dealer in New York and donated to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of B.C.

The club was the last remaining object from Cook’s personal collection not housed in a museum, and it will be the only such item to be on public display in Canada.

Margarita James, president of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, says the Nuu-chah-nulth people welcome the homecoming of the treasure, which can now be shared with Canadians.

Cook was the first European to set foot on the northwest coast when he arrived at B.C.'s Nootka Sound in March 1778.