Museums Taking Action
Join the museums that have already signed the Repatriation Call to Action!
We signed the Repatriation Call to Action because we are committed to walking the path of reconciliation. Taking the pledge provides a tangible way to demonstrate our commitment to this journey, and provides a means to hold ourselves accountable.
We have been engaged in repatriation for many years. A previous generation of staff took on the duty of care when police uncovered ancestral remains and selected the museum as the most suitable repository. Staff cared for these remains with respect and tenderness and released them to our host nation when the time came. In recent years we have invited representatives from our host nation, as well as Indigenous scholars, to view and document our collection. Although no funerary objects have been identified, other cultural material has been transferred and there could be more in the future. This demonstrates friendship and supports our continued efforts to do good work together.
Our next step will be to adopt and implement a Repatriation Policy to guide us forward. Sharing the policy publicly will build trust in museums and express our response to the TRC Calls to Action.
-Linda Digby, Executive Director of Kelowna Museums
Oliver and District Heritage Society
We have been working on a number of steps toward reconciliation for the last 2 years and have an ongoing partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band. While we don’t have human remains in our collection (our collections policy forbids it), we want to encourage more museums to take this important step of making a plan for repatriation of any ancestral human remains and of culturally sensitive items such as grave goods. We believe museums should be transparent about their collecting practices and who to contact in the event that there is a disputed item in their collection.
Our repatriation policy is currently in our collections policy, but I plan to also add this information to our website’s FAQ page as well for more accessibility.
-Julianna Weisgarber, Executive Director of Oliver and District Heritage Society
Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives
In the spirit of reconciliation, we have been working for a number of years on the repatriation of culturally significant artifacts to their rightful homes. The BCMA’s Call to Action provides a great resource to guide this important work, calling for transparency and accountability in the return of First Nations artifacts. We look at repatriation as an opportunity to build upon relationships in our communities, and enter into the process with an open heart to return these items where they belong. For our organization, it’s about addressing historical wrongs, community building, and moving forward together, and we are dedicated to this vital and important work.
-Matthew Lovegrove, Manager/Curator of Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives
Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation began our repatriation journey only recently. We’re fortunate to have only one Indigenous artefact, a mask carved into the trunk of a tree that was felled during construction of the town. What makes our situation complicated is we have multiple claims and it has different and significant meaning to everyone involved. The really exciting part is bringing several Nations and the Treaty 8 Tribal Association together for open dialogue, to share stories, and to hopefully reach a consensus on the future home of the mask. The museum’s role is to organize and facilitate meetings, we’ll be helping to find funding, aiding in research, and participating in whatever supportive way we can, but mostly we’re just here to listen until the Nations agree to a plan.
The quality and sincerity of the relationships the museum had with local Nations prior to my arriving in 2019 really depended on who I talked to. I’m trying to build real trust, review and change our practices, and do good work together as we develop new gallery spaces to tell the story of Tumbler Ridge beyond the palaeontology. It’s important that the Nations we collaborate with see that we are taking real and meaningful actions. For us, as we only have the one artefact, it’s more about how we will handle any future objects that may come to us. As our area becomes busier and we enable more research, we believe the likelihood of future discoveries is reasonable and we want to set clear policy, procedure, and lines of communications, from working with our local archaeologist, the provincial government, and most importantly the Nations and the Treaty 8 Tribal Association. We also want to set policy for how we work with loans from Indigenous communities, how we will promote self-curation by these communities in our museum space, and how we approach programming attached to these new exhibitions.
We are very early days in doing this work, so we have no policies as of yet – but it’s very exciting! Museums, especially the smaller community based ones, are ideally placed to address truth and reconciliation. The much larger institutions, not limited to museums of course, are much more entrenched in their colonial roots and due to their size, are simply just not as nimble. It’s the millions of small actions and changes that we take as individuals and small organizations that are eventually going to lead to change in the larger systems.
-Zena Conlin, Executive Director of Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation
The Exploration Place and Science Centre
Museums were conceived as a celebration of Colonial Expansion, as elite spaces to exhibit trophies of conquest and domination. The exhibits were developed entirely from the perspective of the Colonizers, with the world’s Indigenous Peoples depicted as, at best, noble savages and, more commonly, as “lesser than” the white culture, who were somehow in need of “civilizing.” When we know better, we do better and our Industry has a responsibility to do just that, BETTER. Repatriating not just material culture, but ancestral remains, is the bare minimum that our Industry must do if we are to live up to our own stated ideals, missions and mandates; let alone remain relevant to our communities as we work collectively to combat the impacts of Residential Schools, Bigotry and Climate Change.
The Exploration Place Museum + Science Centre has been honoured with the friendship of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation for decades now, with that trust comes a sacred responsibility. Without a doubt we have learned more than we have taught and reaped the immeasurable benefits of true Reconciliation with the original stewards of these Lands as they share their Teachings with us. As we stand united, facing down multiple existential threats to humanity, it is clearer every day that Reconciliation is not just a moral duty, or a cultural imperative, it is also our best chance at our collective, brightest future.
Our Museums are at their most aspirational as community forums, safe places for difficult discussions, a communal kitchen table where neighbours gather to share, learn, teach and plan; that work is best done with ALL voices at the table. We aren’t doing anyone a favour here, we are not saving anyone; instead, we are again imposing on the love and trust of the original inhabitants of this land as we ask them to help us to understand what their Nations have always known, that humans must live in harmony with nature and in balance with the land. We cannot, with a straight face, even make that request while our facilities hold relatives’ remains, spiritual objects and vital records that were stolen from our neighbours.
I have come to deeply appreciate the Indigenous statement “All My Relations.” We are all interconnected from water, earth and air through flora and fauna, humans are part of that great web. We are all someone’s seventh generation issue, reaping the benefits today of the decisions made by our ancestors with our best interests in mind; we must find our way back to that wisdom. I believe our Museums can be an integral partner in that work.
-Tracy Calogheros, CEO of The Exploration Place and Science Centre
If you would like to share why you have signed the call to action, please reach out to Leia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the Repatriation Call to Action
Pledge support for the Repatriation Call to Action, and to commit your institution to take action