By Crystal St. Pierre

Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative

A 128-page report by the Canadian Museums Association’s Reconciliation Council, titled Moved to Action: Activating UNDRIP in Museums, contains standards museums must meet to turn the page on their colonial past, and recommendations for inclusion and representation of indigenous peoples in museums and cultural centres.

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The report is the CMA’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #67, which calls on the federal government to provide funding to the CMA to examine, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, policies and practices of Canadian museums and make recommendations for the sector to become more compliant with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“The purpose of the report is to provide a starting point for Canadian museums to implement the UNDRIP principles with respect to large museums or small private museums,” said Grant Anderson, member of the Reconciliation Council of the CMA.

“In the long run, this is going to be a very good thing. I’ve been on the bandwagon for years saying if we’re going to do something to build prosperity in the indigenous communities of this country, let’s look at our history? This can restore pride to communities. This is going to be a very good thing.

Anderson was born in Selkirk, Man., and is a member of the Red River Metis Nation. He has written children’s books and is senior director of the Manitoba Metis Federation. He is also responsible for the development of the newly created Métis Nation Heritage Center in downtown Winnipeg.

“This (report) is the roadmap,” he said.

The report is complete. There are, for example, 30 standards that museums must meet to comply with UNDRIP. Some of these standards emphasize the requirement for repatriation of everything from cultural property, ancestral remains, songs, seeds, linguistic records, maps and materials related to traditional knowledge and intellectual property. “Recognition that Indigenous peoples have intellectual sovereignty over all material created by or about them,” reads Standard 3.

Still other standards require museums to develop an understanding of the different decision-making processes and authority structures in Indigenous communities, and to use Indigenous-focused assessment and evaluation systems to measure the success of this work.

Then there are 10 recommendations to help guide this work.

Anderson said he was particularly interested in two of these

recommendations: one was to strengthen financial support for Indigenous cultural centers and Indigenous-led national heritage organizations, and the other to develop “under the authoritative guidance of Indigenous experts, organizations and communities » of a coherent collections strategy « to identify and improve access to collections both nationally and internationally.

“What I hope is that we can develop a partnership, a relationship, an atmosphere of care and sharing for these artifacts so that sometimes they are displayed in communities and maybe they are preserved in safe and secure storage facilities at other times,” Anderson said. “There’s going to be a lot of figuring out what to do, but I think the idea of ​​developing partnerships between First Nations communities, Metis and Inuit peoples and the museums of this country is the solution.

The repatriation of artifacts would begin with a database of stored items accessible to communities, said Dorota Blumczyska, CMA board member and CEO of the Manitoba Museum.

The database would contain photos and information about these different items, as well as how they were cared for by each establishment. Communities could then browse through them and see which ones belong to them.

“The museum has the opportunity to support the communities in this recovery process, but also to continue to learn from the communities to build capacity in both directions, so it is reciprocal and it helps to better understand the historical importance of these artifacts,” Blumczyska said.

“The more we understand each other, the more we invest in each other’s legacies, histories and histories, the deeper our relationships can be.” I think that’s so much the truth part before we get to the reconciliation.

Historically, Blumczyska said, some artifacts were taken to museums or other cultural institutions for safekeeping by community members. These facilities provide storage spaces with humidity and temperature control, which allows for ideal storage of artifacts.

However, once these artifacts were placed in the care of the institution, it was often difficult for communities to access them.

“To do this work well, it needs to be community-led and we will ensure that on the museum side, barriers are removed and we don’t create obstacles to move this work forward,” he said. she stated.

“We’re going to have to change, whether it’s systems or policies, practices or governance. We will make these changes. We will always look to Indigenous communities to guide the process.

Blumczyska said: “I think a lot of us have some level of apprehension that we want to be careful that the work we’re doing doesn’t cause further damage. That we do not engage in this work through such a lens that does not center the voices, wants and needs of the community.

Anderson points to other recommendations from the report, especially 3, 4 and 9.

Recommendation 3 addresses the need for sustainable resources for Indigenous cultural centers and Indigenous-led national heritage organizations to support community goals of self-determination.

Recommendation 4 calls for the national museum policy and museum assistance program to be revised to support and apply the UNDRIP principles in their structures and delivery.

Recommendation 9 calls for the establishment of a national UNDRIP professional development strategy, the objective of which would be to help museums implement UNDRIP at every level of their operations and in all positions. of the museum.

And Anderson is asking museums for compensation for the dollars spent to acquire the artifacts.

It tells the story of an individual who, in the early 1800s, traveled across Canada to collect artifacts, which were sold to a museum 125 years later for $2 million.

“Museums should not be punished for doing a good job”,

he said, adding that the museum should receive compensation from the government when these artifacts are returned to the original communities.

Crystal St. Pierre is a Reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative with The LJI program is funded by the federal government. Turtle Island News does not receive funding from LJI.

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