The British Columbia Museums Association (BCMA) calls upon all publicly-funded institutions to repatriate ancestral human remains and burial items. In 2022, we are expanding the reach of this Call to Action to advocate for public education around repatriation.
Public education on repatriation and its importance is key for our sector to move toward decolonization and reconciliation. Collections are held by museums in public trust, therefore the public should know the context and harm collecting continues to have on Indigenous communities. We urge museums to provide public resources about the origins of museum collections and how repatriation can help heal the relationships between museums and Indigenous communities.
Museums need community support to ensure that the work they undertake to address past and present harms will last. Museums hold special places in the hearts of many British Columbians and when we change our exhibits and collections, it can often feel sudden or unexpected. We must encourage the public to come to us with their questions and curiosity, and so we can help equip them with the information needed to understand these changes. We encourage institutions to use repatriation as an opportunity to show the return of ancestral possessions as a celebration and not a loss, a new addition to the stories we tell, not a removal. These informed community members can then help spread their support to other museums.
Beginning on the anniversary of the Repatriation Call to Action in May 2022, the BCMA will provide access to hand-selected resources to Repatriation Call to Action signees’, meant to help organizations and their staff engage the public and each other in ongoing learning and understanding of repatriation and reconciliation work. These resources aim to assist organizations that support repatriation, but do not have collections to repatriate or are in the process of completing last year’s actions, and wish to further include the public in these efforts. Resources will arrive directly in the signees’ inbox each month.
Sign on to the Repatriation Call to Action using the form at the bottom of the page, and you will be included in the email list for access to the resources every month, as well as the Call to Action decal created for the initiative by Sarah Jim. Learn more about her and her artwork below!
Institutions who sign the Repatriation Call to Action agree to work on the following steps;
Ground all Repatriation policies, discussions, and decisions in a fundamental place of respect and empathy;
Create and publicly share a Repatriation Policy that:
Clearly outlines the process in full along with anticipated timelines and/or processing times;
Is easily located on your institutional website;
Lists the name of your Institution’s repatriation contact person along with their contact details.
Is designed to be open-ended, flexible, and responsive to community’s needs
Acknowledge that the costs of repatriation of ancestors and associated cultural patrimony should not be borne by Indigenous Peoples and proactively prepare for your budget to reflect this;
Work to create an inventory of all ancestors in your collections, and all known information regarding their origins, collection, transfer and history.
In 2022, we are also adding public education initiatives to the Call to Action and will provide hand-selected resources to help organizations educate the public and their own staff.
The logo for the Repatriation Call to Action was created by Sarah Jim, an emerging artist of mixed ancestry. Sarah is a member of the W̱SÁNEĆ nation from the Tseycum village. She holds a BFA from UVIC and conducts environmental restoration on her ancestral territory. Creating place-based artwork of her homelands and waters allows her to educate others about the importance of native plant food systems and coastal medicines in relation to the ecosystem and W̱SÁNEĆ culture.
Sarah explains the elements used in the logo; “The moon and stars are ubiquitous entities that hold so much meaning for many. A moon in transition symbolizes the act of repatriation; communities are becoming whole again by receiving what truly belongs to them. The surrounding plants represent good medicine for this phase in life and stars are meant to give good wishes and represent ancestors.”
The logo will be made available to institutions who sign on to the Repatriation Call to Action as a window-cling decal to illustrate their support in addition to receiving a monthly hand-selected resource via email.
Join the museums that have already taken 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. -Lindy Digby, Executive Director of Kelowna Museums
Hear from Repatriation Call to Action signee the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives in this special BC Museums Week 2022 podcast episode. Listen to Manager/Curator, Matthew Lovegrove discuss how the organization has incorporated repatriation and related topics into their daily work.
We encourage institutions to check out this selection of Repatriation Policy examples from across BC and Canada. We have updated this list to include large and small organizations, and encourage those signing the Repatriation Call to Action to let us know when they post their policy so we can add to our list!
Interview from BC Museums Week 2021 with William Housty, a board member of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, about the items returning home with funding from the 2020 Repatriation Grant, how the process of repatriation heals the community and about making space in museums for ceremony.
Listen to our conversation from BC Museums Week 2021 with Chief Petra Munroe of the Maiyoo Keyoh Society about the importance of their 2020 Repatriation Grant, the history of their family headdress, and how The Exploration Place is supporting their work.
About the BC Museums Association
The BCMA thanks the Indigenous Advisory Committee for their leadership in creating the Repatriation Call to Action and their dedication and support throughout its creation and publication.
Since 1957 the BCMA has supported British Columbia’s museum sector through professional development, advocacy, funding, and networking. In 2017, to mark the Association’s 60th anniversary, BCMA Council unanimously endorsed the Rod Naknakim Declaration, named after Rod Naknakim of the We Wai Kai Nation. The Declaration encourages cultural institutions to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to decolonize museums, archives, and cultural spaces, creating new opportunities for collaboration, increased respect, and repatriation. Shortly afterward, the BCMA established the Indigenous Advisory Committee to provide guidance to the organization and enhance the relationship between the heritage sector and the First Peoples.