The Province is committing $2 million to the Royal BC Museum to support all interested Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia seeking the return of their ancestral remains and belongings of cultural significance.
Premier Christy Clark announced the funding today at the third annual Cabinet-First Nations Leaders Gathering at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This commitment supports a plan that is being co-created with Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia, aimed at helping interested First Nations communities draw upon the resources of the Royal BC Museum, under the guidance of Prof. Jack Lohman.
With this support, the Royal BC Museum will be better positioned to provide meaningful assistance to interested Aboriginal communities, through the development of a new First Nations department and repatriation program. This commitment will also help to build capacity for the involvement of all heritage organizations throughout the province. The museum will sign a memorandum of understanding with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council whose guidance and support is important to beginning the spiritual healing process.
As a gesture of the Province’s support for recovery and reconciliation, the part of sacred regalia that was taken from a Chief’s grave over 125 years ago, is being reunited with the Heiltsuk nation. Its return is crucial to the spiritual healing and cultural well-being of the Heiltsuk from the disruption of their burial sites.
The Province’s funding commitment also recognizes Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, which marks the importance of supporting commemoration projects focused on reconciliation, aligning with the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Premier Christy Clark –
“Returning cherished cultural belongings and ancestral remains is crucial for the preservation and continuation of First Nations cultures and traditions that have passed down through the generations for millennia. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on our shared history and right past wrongs.”
Chief Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Nation –
“The Heiltsuk believe that the repatriation of our sacred treasures from museums is an integral part of reconciliation. Our elders have told us that our treasures must be returned to our community in order for community healing to continue. We look forward to establishing a strong relationship with the Royal BC Museum to continue the process of having our treasures returned home.”
Prof. Jack Lohman, CEO, Royal BC Museum –
“This new program will greatly encourage and facilitate the return of ancestral remains and sacred objects. We will be working in collaboration with the First Peoples' Cultural Council and First Nations directly to ensure a closer dialogue as we help to co-ordinate and support repatriation efforts from other museums and assist with repatriation."
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development –
“Aboriginal peoples and their heritage are embedded in our province’s cultural history, and supporting their healing journey to identify and reclaim cultural belongings is the right thing to do. The Royal BC Museum is an excellent steward for this sensitive and important undertaking and will follow the lead of Aboriginal peoples as they work together."
- British Columbia has the most diverse Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
- 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 globe.
- 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 peoples 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/