The Province of British Columbia has committed $2 million to establish a First Nations department and repatriation program at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.
Premier Christy Clark announced the news last week at the annual Cabinet-First Nations Leaders Gathering in Vancouver.
“This is a huge step for museums in Canada,” says Jack Lohman, chief executive of the Royal BC Museum, who is overseeing the project. “It enables repatriation to intensify -- it’s [already] happening -- but it allows it to increase both nationally and internationally.” The initiative will support First Nations in the repatriation process, with the First Nations leading the way. “The Heiltsuk believe that the repatriation of our sacred treasures from museums is an integral part of reconciliation,” Marilyn Slett, the chief of the Heiltsuk Nation, explained in a statement. “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.”
The museum has signed a memorandum of understanding with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and also plans to work with the Canadian Museums Association to share repatriation experiences with institutions in other provinces, and has also teamed up with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The museum will host a summit in 2017 for the different groups involved to discuss the repatriation process. On Sept. 12, the museum announced two new positions, the head of First Nations and repatriation and a repatriation specialist.