Though no Canadian legislation exists to implement repatriation, museums currently consider First Nations' requests on a case-by-case basis. Legality of ownership and communal ceremonial significance, as well as the physical condition or state of preservation of the objects, are taken into consideration. Sometimes repatriation is not practical, as when communities lack facilities or trained personnel in the management, care or use of materials. Museums may act as caretakers of collections on behalf of their traditional owners.
Examples of successful claims to objects in the Canadian Museum of Civilization include the return of confiscated POTLATCH items to the Alert Bay and Cape Mudge peoples in 1978, the Starlight MEDICINE BUNDLE to the SARCEE (TSÚÙTÍNÀ) people of Alberta in 1989, and the 1991 return to the SIX NATIONS Confederacy of three WAMPUM belts (the Circlet of the League, the MOHAWK Chief's wampum, and a SENECA wampum called The Three Sisters). In 2001, the museum adopted a written policy on repatriation (see MUSEUM POLICY). Several other museums across the country also have, or are developing repatriation guidelines or policies.
The topic of artifact repatriation is now commonly addressed in Canadian LAND CLAIMS. These agreements usually outline government responsibilities for helping First Nations to repatriate artifacts to their areas. The NISGA'A agreement (1999) was the first to include major provisions for repatriation. The Nisga'a have negotiated the repatriation of 200 artifacts from the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Royal British Columbia Museum. The LABRADOR INUIT Land Claims Agreement (2005) also provides for the repatriation of nearly 80 artifacts from the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Several First Nations are establishing their own facilities for the safekeeping and exhibition of repatriated objects.
Author RENÉ R. GADACZ
Douglas Cole, Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts (1985); Assembly of First Nations and Canadian Museums Association, Turning the Page: Forging New Partnerships Between Museums and First Peoples (1994); Canadian Museum of Civilization, Curatorship: Indigenous Perspectives in Post-Colonial Societies (1996); Ira Jacknis, The Storage Box of Tradition: Kwakiutl Art (2002).
Links to Other Sites
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.