My name is Clement Doore. I'm an elder from the Siksika Nation in Alberta. Our presentation is entitled “Repatriation and Reconciliation”.
First I'll give you some background. The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park is a world-renowned cultural, education and entertainment centre located on Siksika Blackfoot Nation reserve No. 146. The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park was built for the promotion and preservation of the Siksika Nation people's language, culture and traditions. Blackfoot Crossing, the historic site of the signing of Treaty No. 7, is of national and international historical and archaeological significance. It is a designated national heritage site. The success of the Treaty No. 7 commemoration in 1977 intensified the Siksika Blackfoot Nation's vision of building a unique world-class tourist attraction designed to engage visitors in authentic cultural experiences with the Blackfoot people.
In 2007, a 30-year vision became reality. The Siksika envisioned an indoor and outdoor living museum that would shelter and share their precious artifacts, their heritage landscape, and their Blackfoot culture with Albertans, Canadians, and the world for all time. Since its inception, the philosophy of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park has been based on five pillars: culture, education, tourism, economic development and socio-political benefits.
The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park is a testimony to the commitment and preservation of the Siksika Nation to mark the historical site of the signing of Treaty No. 7 and to preserve for all time the culture of the Blackfoot plains indigenous people of Canada.
Here are the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park recommendations.
One is that the government support and provide funding to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's implementation of their renewal and repatriation plan. The renewal and repatriation plan is critical to the sustainability and viability of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.
Two is that the government provide funding and support to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in further repatriation efforts to recover any and all remaining artifacts pertaining to and belonging to Chief Crowfoot.
Three is that the government provide funding and support to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's strategy and development of a Siksika Nation repatriation plan to align with a national strategy.
The repatriation of Chief Crowfoot's artifacts from the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, U.K., is central to the renewal of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. The repatriation plan for the revival of Chief Crowfoot's regalia will act as a catalyst for the renewal of the Blackfoot Crossing operation, for more successful financial viability, and to strengthen cultural preservation and long-term sustainability.
The renewal plan has addressed the challenges and mitigates the threats facing the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. The repatriation plan is an analysis of new programming, facility design, sales and marketing, public relations, human resources strategy and financial strategy.
The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park began to pursue the path to repatriate Chief Crowfoot's artifacts, which are housed at the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, U.K. The artifacts on display are Chief Crowfoot's shirt and leggings. Meetings had been ongoing with Government of Alberta officials, and subsequently in March 2015 the repatriation grant was approved.
In July 2015, the Government of Alberta funding was approved and received. In October 2016, the Government of Alberta approved grant funding to hire a consultant to develop a Blackfoot Crossing historical repatriation and renewal plan.
In February 2015, another grant was received to hire a consultant to continue repatriation and communications with the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter, U.K. The repatriation of Chief Crowfoot's artifacts defines the significance of the Treaty No. 7 agreement. The treaty was prominent in developing the relationship between the Indians and the European settlers. The repatriation of Chief Crowfoot's artifacts is one of the major steps towards reconciliation. By means of a holistic repatriation plan, current roadblocks and stalls in negotiations can be effectively mitigated. Through this plan, understanding may be gained by both parties to commit their vastly different beliefs into an agreement that this plan is mutually beneficial.
The second recommendation is that the government provide funding and support to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in further repatriation efforts to recover any and all remaining artifacts pertaining to and belonging to Chief Crowfoot. Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park is aware of the following artifacts and items that fall under the auspices of repatriation: one headdress, one deerskin robe, a leather shirt, one pair of leggings, one bow-case and quiver of otter fur, eagle feathers, one bow, four iron-headed arrows, three arrow points of hornstone, four pairs of moccasins, one pair of mittens, three whips, three embroidered bags, one rattle.
The third recommendation is that the government provide funding and support to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park strategy and development of a Siksika Nation repatriation plan to align with a national strategy. The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's next step to develop a holistic repatriation plan is creating a framework built on the following.
The first is in answer to band council resolution number 8-2018. The First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act allows for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations “respecting the process and procedures to be followed in repatriating a sacred ceremony object” and other matters.
The second is in answer to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta's Bill 22, an act to provide for the repatriation of indigenous peoples' sacred ceremonial objects.
The third is in answer to Bill , an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property.
The fourth is in answer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 67 to 70.
In closing, when taking into consideration the effects of the treaty, the implementation of the reserve system, the residential school system, and the systematic abuse of first nations people in Canada, the importance of this mission becomes clear. These items are part of the foundations of identity for the Siksika people. When we consider the matters of holistic healing, the usefulness of this process becomes clear. Repatriation will be the cornerstone to reconciliation for all first nations peoples.
Furthermore, I'll reiterate and emphasize the following recommendations from the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. The first is that the government support and provide funding to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's implementation of their renewal and repatriation plan. The second is that the government provide funding to support the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's strategy and development of a Siksika Nation repatriation plan to align with the national strategy. The third is that the government provide funding to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park's implementation of calls to action 67 to 70 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, under “Museums and Archives”. References include the Blackfoot Crossing renewal and repatriation planned summary, the Siksika Nation band council resolution, and Chief Crowfoot's photograph.
[Witness speaks in Haida]
My name is Jisgang. My English name is Nika Collison. I'm the executive director of the Haida Gwaii Museum and co-chair of the Haida Repatriation Committee.
Haw'aa to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Haw'aa to Mr. for his vision and to all who have done a great amount of work on Bill .
I would also like to take a moment to thank and recognize Mr. for his work on Bill .
At the second reading of Bill , Mr. stated that he is open to anything that will make the bill better. I appreciate this opportunity to provide insight into Haida repatriation experiences and respond to the bill as it sits right now.
As museum professionals and human beings, we carry the responsibility to effect societal change by mainstreaming Canada's dark history with indigenous peoples while actively working to set things right.
In the indigenous and mainstream museum world, the path toward reconciliation has been shaped by what my Haida Nation calls Yahguudangang, the act of paying respect. The Haida Nation sees this work, more commonly known as repatriation, as based upon mutual respect, co-operation and trust. Yahguudangang has brought a new depth to our nation's healing and our ability to heal with others. It provides opportunity for western museums to become voluntary agents of change rather than the physical evidence of Canada's genocide against first peoples.
Saahlinda Naay, Savings Things House, also known as the Haida Gwaii Museum, is the result of one of the earliest acts of making things right—or reconciliation—in the museum world. It was a vision of both the Haida citizens and Canadian friends residing on our islands that brought this place into being, which opened in 1976. In 2007, we opened the Haida Heritage Centre, which expanded our museum. It was created for our people but also created to share. This is our gift to the world.
Since most of our treasures left Haida Gwaii during the height of colonial regimes, our museum didn't have much of a collection to begin with, but Haida and settler families generously donated Haida heirlooms. The Royal British Columbia Museum, under the lead of then curator Peter McNair, showed support by returning some monumental poles for our museum's opening. This quiet act of repatriation is probably the earliest in Canada. It was not required by law or policy. This act was done because of the humanity this one person brought to our table.
The Haida Gwaii Museum has since grown to include a considerable collection of treasures, mostly gained from private donations, purchases and long-term loans, as opposed to museum repatriation. We also present new works, as we are a living culture. We are not simply an institution. We are a part of the institution that makes up today's Haida society and the greater Canadian society.
In the mid-1990s, the repatriation of ancestral remains became a primary focus of our people. To date, over 500 of our ancestors have been brought home from museums and private individuals from across North America, and one from the U.K. This work has taken over 20 years and well over a million dollars in cash, sweat labour and in-kind donations.
When we visit these museums to bring our ancestors home, we also visit our cultural treasures and other containers of knowledge, such as archives. We bring the diaspora of our people's lives home through imagery, audio recordings, collection notes and the recreation of pieces, and through the physical, emotional and spiritual connections that forever bind us. A few times, family heirlooms have come home from these museums. We are now ready to bring more home.
Around the same time that we began to focus on our ancestors, the 1992 “Task Force Report on Museums and First Peoples” came out. This report has had a very important influence on relationships between indigenous people and mainstream museums, but it's the past four decades of knocking on doors, patience and relationship-building by our people that have been pivotal in having the Haida world and the museum world come together to make things right.
NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of the United States, has played an important role there and, in a roundabout way, for us as well. The first cross-border repatriation of one of our ancestors was spurred by NAGPRA. Legally, the museum was not required to work with us because we are not a federally recognized U.S. tribe, but they wanted to see our relative come home. When we contacted the next couple of U.S. museums, they wanted to repatriate through our Alaskan relatives in order to align their process with NAGPRA, but these ancestors came from Haida Gwaii, and eventually the museums agreed.
England is far behind Canada in repatriation, with many mechanisms—or lack of mechanisms, depending on the situation—to prohibit such work. Despite this, through relationship-building and a lot of other hard work, we were able to bring home an ancestor from the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2010. The British Museum has changed its act to allow for repatriation of human remains, and we will be bringing home an ancestor from there imminently.
What we found in working in Yahguudangang is that you can instil a policy and/or laws around repatriation, but true Yahguudangang, or repatriation and reconciliation, is not fully achieved without respectful, genuine nation-to-nation relationship-building. We want people to want to give our relatives back and to see our treasures come home. We want people to want to make things right, and want to find a way forward together, not because they have to. Repatriation is the most important work I've been involved in around the work of reconciliation. The work is beyond monumental. It costs time and healing, and it involves everyone in our nation and our friends.
I'm worried about running out of time, so just give me a second here.
Yahguudangang has changed Haida history and Canadian history. It has also changed the way some Western museum staff see themselves, their own settler histories, and their museums' histories as we heal together. They also come to accept, learn and practise that our own indigenous laws and protocols must be part of the process and be followed. While museums support our repatriation efforts, it helps their staff address and heal from the shame of colonialism, so the bigger shame then becomes not working towards repatriation.
In 2003, as we prepared our relatives for their journey home from the Field Museum, my cousin Jenny Cross wondered if were repatriating ourselves. We believe in reincarnation, and we know that everything is connected to everything else. I've learned there is a practice in our culture called “putting a string on someone”. For example, during the times of arranged marriages, the family of one young child might endow a great deal to the family of another, effectively “putting a string” on them, ensuring the two would one day move forward in life together.
I like to think that our ancestors put a string on their treasures, on themselves and the museums they were taken to, and on us, binding us to something that transcends the preservation of Haida history, culture and identity, binding two worlds so that we would come together in the future when the time was right, to heal and to redefine our relationships with each other and with the world so that we can move forward together in a respectful and honest manner. In this, you can see that repatriation is not a job but a way of life in which I and my nation are deeply embedded.
In reviewing Bill, my understanding is that it is not a repatriation act, but one to establish a process to assist with repatriation. We appreciate that, because then it becomes not overly prescriptive, but we would suggest that the process slow down a bit. Despite there having been consultation, it requires greater engagement and consultation with indigenous nations.
We have been leading the charge on repatriation. We know it best. It requires greater engagement with the Canadian Museums Association, including the newly formed and still-forming reconciliation council. It requires consultation with provincial governments and mainstream museums that hold indigenous collections.
We need to include territories in the wording of the bill, along with provinces, and we need to consider that it must be indigenous self-determination that moves repatriation forward and defines what it means.
The act needs some indemnification for wrongful or incorrect repatriation, as sometimes that could happen because of competing claims or incorrect returns.
As the previous speaker said, funding is critical in moving repatriation forward, for both indigenous nations and mainstream museums. In terms of the research, community consultation, negotiations, coordination, conservation, transport home, building a centre to house these pieces and care for them, capacity-building and longevity, it is so expensive and it is so absolutely necessary and critical to healing our nations and the greater Canadian public's relationship with us.
When we're looking at legitimately sold materials, we need to consider that—
I'm just going to back up quickly, because I think Louis Riel is important. He said something about how a hundred years from now we will rise again, and art will bring us back. That's what we are seeing through true access to our art.
In closing the gap, there are really neat initiatives going on with the UBC Museum of Anthropology in partnership with our museum and other indigenous cultural centres and museums in B.C., where we are working to bring to light our centres and eventually create a sort of cultural corridor that visitors would be inspired to follow.
Our visitation continues to rise. We're hesitant to become like Banff. It's the education through media and educational productions such as documentaries that give great presence of our nation to the greater world. There is usually a two-year lag that follows anything that becomes international.
I'm going to back up and say that infrastructure to get people over—the B.C. ferries, the flights.... It can cost less to fly to Germany from Vancouver than it does to fly from Vancouver to Haida Gwaii. There are such limited flights and ferry schedules that it really impacts visitors' abilities to get here at times. Financial support in that manner would be great, both for transportation and for our ability to market and partner with other institutions to work on bringing people to our doorstep.
I want to thank Ms. Collison from the Haida Gwaii Museum, and Mr. Doore from Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.
As Ms. Collison said, we've very proud that Parliament has passed 's bill, which constitutes a very clear implementation of the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to UNESCO and the UN. It's a big step forward. I think that all parliamentarians can be proud. Above all, we can be proud of all the mediation efforts made by the various Indigenous stakeholders.
Mr. Doore, I heard you talk about the artifacts that you were deprived of. One parallel seems natural to me. Saint-Laurent, ' constituency, is home to the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec. The museum is linked to the furniture and accessories of daily life that Quebecers used to use. The museum also does exceptional mediation work with the public, particularly in Ville Saint-Laurent.
Obviously, these important items must be repatriated to better understand a civilization. I heard Mr. Doore say that all these items are in England. I fully understand the need to repatriate the items in order to explain this way of life.
I think there's also a sacred and spiritual dimension. I can't say that the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec has a sacred and spiritual dimension. It's really archeology and history, which is very important.
I must congratulate Mr. Casey on the bill. Of all the things he has accomplished, he's the most proud of this bill. He sees the bill's impact on the community.
Mr. Doore, don't you think that the sacred and spiritual dimensions could be further emphasized?
Yes, thank you very much.
I would just like to say, you're bringing up UNDRIP, so thank you again for that. One of the recommendations for the bill is to change the word “aboriginal” to “indigenous”.
In the case of the Haida Gwaii Museum, we have been researching where our treasures and intangible heritage are around the globe. Simply for objects, we're aware of over 12,000 right now. In our community consultations, our elders have directed that we bring home excellent examples of the full spectrum of our material culture and copies of all intangible heritage. But we cannot bring home 12,000 pieces, and there is great benefit to having some around the world, as long as we determine how they are presented.
Going beyond that, repatriation is healing. It's healing for us, and it's healing for Canada. It deepens our spiritual connection to all aspects of life. It also heals the psychological trauma, not completely but greatly, which is intergenerational, the effects of the colonial regime. It actually changes how we make decisions, and it is a true path, one of the truest paths, towards reconciliation. Of course, there are many other paths that need to be followed.
It is not simply saying, “Give us our relatives back; give us our stuff back” and then going home. We have a commitment, a responsibility to work to make this world better, and that is driven by our highest law, or one of our highest laws, which is respect.
I would also like to say that the bill is missing the identity of ancestors as well as intangible cultural heritage.
Thank you to our witnesses this morning.
Look, while heritage is essential to all peoples, there's no question that indigenous people have had the least control over theirs, so I just want to give a shout-out to MP Casey for Bill . I think it's very meaningful, and it can change the way we look at history, for sure.
My first question is for you, Ms. Collison. You mentioned in your presentation that you want other organizations, groups, countries, what have you, to want to give back indigenous cultural property. How realistic is that? Where do you think we are right now with respect to their wanting to give that back? How much work do we need to do?
I want to let the francophone members and everyone who needs French interpretation know that the third witness, Aluki Kotierk, will be giving her evidence in Inuktitut. The interpretation will be from Inuktitut to English, then from English to French, so there will be a delay. I'm announcing it so that everyone will be ready for the delay.
We have with us Lucy Bell, from the Royal British Columbia Museum, who will be speaking by video conference.
We have present with us right now President Clément Chartier, from the Métis National Council.
Also here with us is President Aluki Kotierk, of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
We have everyone at the table.
We will start with the video conference, just in case we run into other technical difficulties this morning. Could we begin, please, with Lucy Bell, from the Royal British Columbia Museum?
You have time to make a presentation right now, if you'd like to begin.
[Witness speaks in Haida]
Good afternoon, friends. My name is Lucy Bell. I come from the Haida Nation and I work at the Royal BC Museum.
Haw'aa. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. I'll begin with a little bit of the background of why you've probably called me here today.
I'm one of the founding members of the Haida Repatriation Committee on Haida Gwaii. More than 20 years ago, I was an intern at the Royal BC Museum. That's where I learned about human remains being in museums, and I learned there were more than 500 of my ancestors in museums around the world. I took that message home to my Haida community, thinking I could tell them that our ancestors were in the museum. They told me to get busy and start repatriating my ancestors. It took well over 20 years to track them all down and bring them home.
Many, many years later, I started working at the Royal BC Museum as the head of the first nations and repatriation department. With the provincial government's support, the museum responded to the calls of the TRC, UNDRIP and the task force, and really wanted to move the museum in a stronger repatriation direction. My team has been working for about two years now with a renewed focus on repatriation.
The Royal BC Museum has been repatriating for many decades. We are one of the two museums in Canada that repatriate under treaty, and we have been repatriating ancestral remains, belongings and intangible heritage.
I'll mention some of the changes we made in the last couple of years.
We recently revised our indigenous collections and repatriation policy to be more open to repatriation. One of the changes that I'm most proud of is that we changed the policy to say that anything taken during the anti-potlatch law from 1885 to 1951 is considered to have been acquired under duress and is up for repatriation.
Another change we've made is that we've really amped up our repatriation and our work toward repatriating intangible heritage. That means that our very extensive collection of audio recordings, linguistic recordings and cultural recordings is being digitized and provided to communities.
We recently launched a repatriation granting program, with the support of the provincial government, and we've been supporting 21 B.C. indigenous communities in their repatriation journeys. We also support treaty repatriation, and on average two to three nations come to the table with the museum every year.
We are in the middle of creating a repatriation 101 handbook. Knowing that there are not that many nations actively involved in repatriation, we knew we could support them by giving them some tips on how to repatriate.
Today I'll mention a few points.
I had the advice of CEO Jack Lohman, curator Martha Black, and archaeology collection manager Genevieve Hill, and we've come up with a few suggestions. I'll mention a few that I wrote down.
It's important that the strategy that's created be created by and with indigenous peoples and with museums. It's important to bring both to the table.
From my experience repatriating from the United States, we found the NAGPRA law to be very restrictive. By the time we got to the museums, the museums felt really rushed and forced. They were quite tired, and they were feeling obligated to repatriate. It was a big strain. I would recommend the way the Haida repatriation movement went, which was to use the task force report in a much friendlier way. We would bring that document and say, “We're here to work in collaboration and in friendship with you.” That seemed to go a lot further for us than the NAGPRA law.
Something we're facing here with our granting program is that repatriation does take time and it does take money. With the Haida repatriation movement, we estimate that it probably cost us about $1 million to repatriate 500 of our ancestors. That's money we had to raise ourselves.
There are some other things we wanted to speak to. A few definitions could be worked on, ensuring that “ancestral remains” are mentioned in the strategy of the bill and ensuring that “intangible heritage”—i.e., language recordings—is included. It's probably a good suggestion to use the term “indigenous”. Asking museums to be more public about their collections, and more public about having ancestral remains in their collections, will be important as well.
Finally, I would say that repatriation does take time. Reporting out takes time. It is just an absolutely slow and thoughtful process. It took 20 years for the Haida to bring home over 500 ancestors. In British Columbia, with so many nations here, that's what we're understanding here at the museum, too. It takes time and it takes people and it takes resources.
Those are my main points today. Haw'aa for the opportunity.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
I begin this presentation with a statement of whom I am referring to when I use the term “Métis”. That is the historic Métis nation based in western Canada—a distinct people with a distinct history and language, Michif; a national flag that is over 200 years old; a significant population; and a defined geographic homeland. It is the people or nation that took both political and military action to defend its people and territory.
To be clear, I am not referring to the modern-day plethora of the hundreds of thousands of people of mixed indigenous and European ancestry, particularly in eastern Canada, who now claim to be Métis, using that term as an adjective and being of mixed ancestry with potential or tenuous claims to some faraway Indian ancestor. This adjective or mixed-ancestry use of the term “Métis” does not relate to the Métis nation, which is a distinct indigenous people, a polity and full-fledged rights-bearing indigenous people with its own distinctive culture and rights, which are inherent in that fact.
Today I am here to address Bill , a proposed act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property. It is expected that this proposed act will provide for the development and implementation of a national strategy to enable the return of aboriginal cultural property to indigenous peoples in Canada, something now desperately needed. The sense of urgency that the Métis nation, the Inuit and the first nations peoples are feeling is evidence that indigenous peoples want to reclaim their cultures and heritage. While indigenous cultural revitalization also includes languages and land, cultural property held by others is a fundamental component of cultural renewal and reclamation.
From the birth of the Métis nation, visitors to this land appreciated the beauty of our material culture and collected and kept it as works of art. This was the time when some semblance of fair trade and commerce was taking place, as indigenous peoples and settlers exchanged goods and services. The colonization and oppression that followed this dynamic put the power to own and possess indigenous material and culture in the hands of the newcomers. This included limiting and eradicating food sources, restricting freedom, denying land ownership, and curtailing business, trade and commerce.
The Métis are often touted as the middlemen or women of the fur trade era. We were once a vibrant and successful connection between the first nations and the newcomers. However, this too diminished as the Métis nation was dispossessed of land and forced to disperse. It forced many or most Métis families into abject poverty, hiding and denying their identity for cultural safety. This was coupled with over a century of shaming indigenous peoples through unfair treatment, one-sided historical records, relocation, outlawed spiritual practices, heavy-handed assimilation tactics, and numerous other forms of discrimination.
Having to choose between feeding your children and keeping culturally significant property was no choice at all. Forced relocation meant taking only what you could carry. The kind of infrastructure that allowed those in more stable environments to enjoy cultural practices and make cultural property could not exist under these conditions.
Métis women were essential to the family's economy. Métis women made their best and most beautiful cultural property to be bought and collected by others, while at the same time it was impossible for Métis families to keep and enjoy what they made.
The kind of work available to Métis men included sporadic and difficult labour endeavours at very low wages, and these men were considered more fortunate than others. Providing for a family through harvesting plants and animals was absolutely necessary. It was a laborious and time-consuming endeavour.
We ask ourselves what kind of cultural property might be there if these hardships had not been foisted on indigenous peoples and, in particular, the Métis nation. What kind of effort did it take to covertly maintain our culture and to continue to pass on the cultural arts for which we became so well known? In fact, we were known as the “flower beadwork people”.
We are grateful to those who could, and hold no malice to those who could not in order to survive. Some people with origins elsewhere may think to themselves, “I don't know the songs and dances of my ancestors, and I can't make any of the material culture either, so what's the big deal?” The big deal is that the vast majority of Canadians have a country of origin from which to reclaim any part of their culture, your culture. It wasn't outlawed or suppressed as it has been here in Canada for indigenous peoples. It hasn't suffered from decades of indifference and shaming, which drove many people to the cultural safety of letting their traditions go in order to survive.
When we look at the care and attention given to the cultural property of those who were free to make and collect it, and how long they have had this privilege, we can only imagine what might have been if indigenous peoples—in our case, the Métis nation—had had the same freedom and opportunity. The most precious and beautiful items would have been kept as cherished family heirlooms. They would not have been sold or taken. These items would not be mislabelled or unlabelled regarding who the artisan was or the indigenous nation from which they originate. They would certainly not be in keeping houses other than our own.
As an example of proving the provenance of potential cultural items that may be subject to repatriation, in August I joined an organization of a number of American states' ambassadors, indigenous leaders and others on a tour of the Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. In one of the displays of the bonnets, a piece caught my eye, a beaded baby bonnet with distinctive Métis beadwork. The caption stated, "Plains Cree (Prairie Cree) baby's cap/hat, circa 1910, Saskatchewan, Canada”. Anybody from the Métis community looking at that knows it's of Métis origin. This is a potential case of having Métis art labelled wrongly, as the suppression of Métis rights and existence was, at that particular period, being visited upon the Métis nation.
Bill is a good first step for Canada to reconcile these injustices. It will serve to make way for indigenous peoples to reclaim their cultural property and to guide all involved in processes that should ultimately make everyone feel that this is the right course of action. The repatriation of aboriginal cultural property is going to speed up the process of cultural renewal for indigenous peoples. It will reflect a time Canadians should not be proud of, and support a time in which Canadians can take great pride.
There is also a need to ensure that repatriated cultural property has a home or homes to return to. In too many cases, the Métis nation does not have adequate resources to establish museums and/or cultural centres. This is slowly changing. The Manitoba Métis Federation, on behalf of the Métis nation, after a 20-year effort is in the final stages of being able to establish a national Métis museum in Winnipeg, the former site of the Red River Métis provisional government. Other initiatives are also under way.
Finally, in 2020 the Métis nation will be celebrating its 150th anniversary of joining Confederation, which was made possible by the negotiation under president Louis Riel and the passage of the Manitoba Act of 1870. We look forward to all parliamentarians, and in fact all Canadians, celebrating this historic event with us.
[Witness speaks in Haida]
Thank you for the invitation to appear before you. I considered speaking in English, but I am now going to speak in Inuktitut, since you have an interpreter. I'm very proud that I'll be able to talk in my language, in Inuktitut, while I'm in Ottawa.
There are two things I'll be talking about in regard to Bill and respecting Nunavut. Briefly, I will say that when I'm reading this bill, it indicates that artifacts can be used for educational purposes. This is very important, in my view. It is very important to us Inuit that Inuit artifacts be inside Nunavut, which they are not. They are housed somewhere else.
The young people should see their own way now in Canada. There is a history of shame for being indigenous people. When we see up close the intricate stitching of the Inuit and how they put tools together—for example combs and other tools—it reminds us how indigenous Inuit were distinct from other people. They were ingenious. This would be the case in Nunavut.
This is a commendable aspiration, as we have nothing in Nunavut. This plan would be very useful to us if there were to be a museum in Nunavut. At the moment, how are we going to use the repatriated cultural property? My concern is that despite the national strategy, there is no facility, and no appropriate measures to protect this cultural property have been implemented.
As we know, Nunavut became a territory in 1993 as a result of the Nunavut agreement, specifically article 4. It's been 25 years since the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act received royal assent from the Canadian Parliament.
In Nunavut, there is no territorial heritage centre that can house Inuit cultural property. As such, there are more than 140,000 Nunavut artefacts in storage, including here in Ottawa. The Government of Nunavut has been spending millions since 1999 to store them outside of Nunavut. The need for such a facility was included in the Nunavut agreement. Article 33.2.4 states:
||There is an urgent need to establish facilities in the Nunavut Settlement Area for the conservation and management of a representative portion of the archaeological record.
In addition, to highlight the need for facilities, the Nunavut agreement established the Inuit Heritage Trust, which is tasked with the safekeeping and safe use of property entrusted to it.
The establishment of a territorial facility has been in the works with the Nunavut government since 2001. In 2006, Nunavut Tunngavik, the Inuit Heritage Trust, and the Nunavut government announced that the territorial facility would be located in Iqaluit. With many competing infrastructure needs, the project was shelved in 2011, and funds that had been budgeted for this were redirected to other projects.
The sense of Inuit is important to us. In 2014, the Inuit Heritage Trust had been working with the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation on the heritage centre project with the intention of bringing home Nunavut Inuit artifacts and building the facility on the Inuit's own lands.
Currently, the creation of the Nunavut heritage project is estimated at a cost of $70 million to $90 million. At our annual general meeting in 2017, Nunavut Tunngavik committed $5 million toward this project, and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association committed the same—$5 million for this new heritage centre to be built inside Nunavut.
Thank you very much for listening to my comments.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I am from Cambridge Bay.
I am happy to be here. Thank you for the opportunity and for having us here. My name is Pamela Gross. Hakongak is my Inuinnaqtun name, given to me by my grandmother, and I'm named after one of her cousins.
I am representing the Inuit Heritage Trust, which is under article 33 in the Nunavut agreement. I'm a trustee for the trust, and I also work at the Kitikmeot Heritage Society. In Inuinnaqtun, we call it Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq. It is a non-profit organization in Cambridge Bay that works to preserve, protect and promote Inuit culture.
I've been working in heritage for a number of years. I have had extensive role models and been able to work with the Inuit Heritage Trust throughout my university career. It is very important that we have a museum in Nunavut, so we can repatriate our artifacts that are housed in Ottawa and Winnipeg and bring them home for our people to use and to learn from in our home communities.
Iqaluit is the potential home of our territorial museum. It's a gracious pledge from Nunavut Tunngavik and the QIA that they have each pledged $5 million toward building a museum. It's been almost 25 years since the Nunavut agreement was assented to. It would be a great opportunity for us, as we are the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have a territorial museum.
If you were to come to our territory—and I'm not sure who has been there before—you would see that we do have a few museums, such as the one I work at, but we do not have a territorial one. In the past several years, we have been able to regain a lot of our cultural pride. We're shifting our identity. We're reclaiming who we are in various ways. One really great way is by looking at old artifacts and taking our elders to museums. I've taken elders to Denmark, for example, to look at collections that are stored there because we don't have the opportunity to look at them in our own home community.
We need to learn that knowledge and have that knowledge retained in our culture to keep that identity. When you think of Canada and you ask people what they think of Canada, they'll often think of the inukshuk, the kayak and the igloo. Those are all important pieces that our ancestors worked hard to create with their ingenuity. Those tools and the objects that are stored within those tools—the knowledge, the wisdom, the words, the language—are all a vital part of our identity and who we are.
We are proud to be Canadian. We would like to have the opportunity to have more of our culture showcased in our communities and be used as lesson tools.
The first step for Nunavut is to have a territorial museum and have our objects brought back home. As mentioned, 140,000 objects are stored in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Those are ones we would like to have in our communities and use as tools to pass on to the next generation.
Quanaqqutit for your time.
Because Nunavut does not have a heritage facility as a territory, the focus for us is how to get the 140,000 objects that are currently housed outside Nunavut—which the Government of Nunavut is currently paying to have housed outside of Nunavut—repatriated back into Nunavut.
I recognize that there's a discussion about how these artifacts are of interest to other Canadians, to the Canadian public, but I think the focus for me at this point is how to get them to Nunavut so that Nunavut Inuit can see the artifacts that belonged to our ancestors.
Inuit in Nunavut have gone through a very drastic change in a very short period of time, so it's in living history. My father's generation is a generation that was living on the land, not in communities. Any time artifacts are brought into our communities, it sparks a lot of discussion and there's a lot of knowledge transfer between young Inuit and older Inuit. It sparks the memories, and that is what is so crucially important for us right now.
We need to have a facility in our territory where we can house them, and then we can start looking at whether or not we can have rotating exhibits going into our communities as an educational tool for Inuit about Inuit.
I want to thank all the witnesses.
This bill has led to fascinating discussions. Along with other witnesses, we've been discussing the bill introduced by my colleague, Romeo Saganash, with whom I have the privilege of working, and respect for the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples.
I always say—I even heard it in the question asked by my colleague earlier—that there's an archeological perception of this issue. However, I think that we've been speaking more about the social sciences and a contemporary healing of the people whose past is involved. It's about your past and history. I think that we should address two issues, and I want to do so now.
First, we can start by saying that you're responsible for choosing how you want to repatriate, display and share these artifacts, with your people first, long before the artifacts are used as museum pieces and any cultural mediation with white people. You're responsible for choosing how you'll proceed. That said, the assignment of this responsibility without a proper budget constitutes a poisoned gift.
How should your control over the repatriation be included in the bill, and how should the cost be assessed? Shouldn't the cost be completely covered by the people who carried out all the actions that led to the current reconciliation commission, which means us and the rest of the country? In addition, why shouldn't the cost also be covered by people who benefited from the artifacts in their museums, archeological facilities or personal collections? I don't want to be too negative, but we must discuss money. Where will the money come from?
This question is specifically for Mr. Chartier and Ms. Kotierk or Ms. Gross.
Well, that is a very excellent question and comment, because you're right. Without the necessary resources to enable us to find where the items are and to identify them as ours, those that we don't know of.... It will take resources.
I mentioned the museum in Manitoba. We've been working at that for over 30 years. The Manitoba Métis Federation took it on about 15 years ago, and we're getting close. In fact, we started with a stimulus budget, where we were asked to put in a proposal, but in the end the Métis nation didn't get a cent out of that stimulus budget. Through the years, it's been building up a little bit to where it is today, at the cusp of being able to move forward.
In our smaller communities, we don't have museums. For example, in northwest Saskatchewan, where I'm from, for the last 30 years I've been acquiring beadwork from our artisans, moose carvings and so on. I have them, but I have no place to put them yet. I'm thinking that, at some time, if the only place we can put them is in the national museum, then we can put them there, but it would be nice to have them right now in our community, so resourcing is a big issue.
We have the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Saskatoon, our educational arm in Saskatchewan, which has a small museum and also a virtual museum. They're going through this process but have challenges as well. Again, resources are a big challenge.
In terms of the costs, I mentioned that a Nunavut heritage facility has already been agreed to in our Nunavut agreement under article 33.2.4. One of our challenges is the non-implementation of our current agreements. I think that would be a venue in which monies could be allocated toward seeing something come to fruition. There are different types of money. There's money that would be needed for capital to create a facility, but in terms of operations and maintenance funds, I think the money that the territorial government currently uses to house the 140,000 artifacts outside Nunavut could be diverted to operations and maintenance.
The thing that we need to work on, first and foremost, is getting the capital dollars to create the facility within Nunavut. In addition to that, money would be required to ensure we're building capacity among the Inuit so that Inuit have the specialized technical skill set to be able to work in a heritage facility that is run by Inuit and that is based on Inuit world views.
I think those are the types of.... Right now, we're faced with repatriation of the 140,000 objects that already belong to us and that are housed outside of Nunavut. Once we have those housed, I think another aspect would be to look around to see what other Inuit objects are out there, but we're not even looking there yet.