Through the expertise of the Royal BC Museum, the Province is beginning a conversation with interested Aboriginal peoples in B.C. to co-create a plan to help identify and return ancestral remains and belongings of cultural significance. Premier Christy Clark made the announcement today at the Royal BC Museum, on the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.
Over hundreds of years, ancestral remains and belongings of cultural significance to Aboriginal peoples, including grave goods, ceremonial regalia and shamanic materials, have found their way into public museums and private collections around the world. Working with Indigenous people to identify and recover ancestral remains and culturally significant belongings has been successful and meaningful in other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand. The Province values the importance of starting a similar process in B.C.
This work supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian Museums Association, to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 by supporting commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.
The Royal BC Museum welcomes the Premier’s commitment to support Aboriginal peoples in B.C. seeking the return of priority culturally significant material and the call for increased dialogue on this issue. In the coming months, the Royal BC Museum will be actively reaching out to Aboriginal peoples to determine how to support this important work.
This announcement seeks a path forward in the recovery of ancestral remains and culturally significant priority belongings. More details will emerge as the conversation evolves.
Premier Christy Clark –
“Returning ancestral remains and cultural belongings is crucial for the preservation and continuation of traditions passed down through the generations, and to right some of the historical wrongs committed against Aboriginal peoples in B.C. The Government of British Columbia and the Royal BC Museum are committed to doing all that can be done to reunite Aboriginal peoples with their treasured cultural objects and bring them home where they belong.”
Shane Gottfriedson, Regional Chief of BC Assembly of First Nations –
“The support of the provincial government and Royal BC Museum gives me hope that we can work together to see ancestral remains and sacred objects returned to First Nations people in B.C. Our homes, communities and places of sacredness were raided and robbed, and bringing our ancestors home is immensely important on a historical, cultural and spiritual level to our communities and our nations. On this day, my spirits are lifted knowing that we as First Nations will be working in partnership with the Province and Royal BC Museum on efforts to witness our ancestors return home. We as Indigenous peoples are continually guided by our ancestors and we shall honour them by ensuring they are protected and cared for as directed by our own laws and protocols.”
Grand Chief Ed John, First Nations Summit –
"In the past many Indigenous ‘cultural objects’, which we call treasures, were wrongfully taken and, in many cases stolen from Indigenous owners, families and communities. These treasures including the sacred remains of our ancestors must be returned. We welcome the Premier's commitment to this process of repatriation."
Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Chair of Reconciliation Canada and Shqwi Qwal –
“From my own personal experience of working to repatriate a family house pole, I know the incredible significance and importance of returning our cultural and social objects to First Nations and Indigenous communities and the profound role it can play in restoring and re-connecting the history, identity, culture, governance, and stories of our peoples. My hope is that this initiative marks an important continuation of our healing journey and work of reconciliation, and in full partnership with Indigenous peoples it can help to address both domestic and international gaps in repatriation policy, helping to create a more integrated narrative of our Indigenous and Canadian relationships and histories in Canada, which will also provide an excellent educational opportunity for our young people.”
Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Reconciliation Canada –
“The return of sacred objects is profound and an important part of reconciliation of our past and history. These ancestral remains are culturally and spiritually significant to our people. I would like to acknowledge the B.C. government for taking this first step. Today adds to the tapestry of reconciliation that is growing across the country.”
Prof. Jack Lohman, CEO, Royal BC Museum –
“We recognize the primacy of Indigenous peoples’ rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration, which states that indigenous people have rights to their cultural, spiritual and intellectual property that was taken away from them often without consent.”
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development –
"Working towards the return of ancestral remains and cultural belongings to Aboriginal peoples in B.C. will be a powerful, thoughtful and significant process. We recognize the solemnity of this endeavour and will honour and respect this sacred and very deeply moving journey as we move forward together.”
John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation –
“The return of Aboriginal peoples’ ancestral remains and cultural belongings holds immense value to our society. We recognize that this is a sensitive, emotional and sacred journey and we very much honour the knowledge, history and wisdom of the Aboriginal peoples in B.C.”
- B.C. has the most diverse Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
- June 21, 2016, marks the 20th annual National Aboriginal Day.
- Ancestral remains and cultural belongings previously returned to Aboriginal peoples in B.C. include:
- Ancestral remains returned to the Tseycum First Nation from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (2008)
- The G’psgolox totem pole returned to the Haisla Nation from the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm (2006)
- A stone statue returned to the Sto:lo First Nation from the Burke Museum in Seattle (2006)
- A ceremonial mask returned to the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation from the British Museum (2005)
- Ancestral remains returned to the Haida from the Field Museum of Chicago (2003)
- 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, and the Government of Canada has identified reconciliation from nation to nation with Indigenous people as a key theme for the year.
BC Assembly of First Nations: http://www.bcafn.ca/
First Peoples’ Cultural Council: http://www.fpcc.ca/
Royal BC Museum: http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: http://www.trc.ca/