First Nation is demanding that part of the Royal British Columbia Museum’s $789 million construction budget be spent on repatriating Indigenous artifacts
In a new twist in the ongoing saga of the Royal British Columbia Museum’s plan to spend CA$789 million ($626 million) to demolish its longtime home in Victoria, British Columbia and construct an entirely new building, a First Nation is demanding of BC called on the province to include this as part of the proposed budget for repatriating Indigenous artifacts and helping First Nations build their own arts centers.
The Tseshaht First Nation, which has a number of cultural objects in the museum including carvings and harpoon points, wrote an open letter which suggests changing the approach to BC government. It says no reply has been received yet.
in one CBC radio Program last week chose Tseshaht Chief Councilor Ken Watts said“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t stand up and speak on behalf of not just our people, but the people who made these items that they have in the museum, you know, ancestors, who aren’t here anymore.” .”
He said All points west Guest presenter Kathryn Marlow would like to see the government of the province – technically still largely unceded territory due to outstanding treaty issues – consult with each of the First Nations whose items are in the current museum to gauge their preferred outcome, he notes that the Tseshaht want their articles returned to their community.
“That alone empowers our people to know that these once sacred objects are returning to where they belong,” Watts said.
As reported by the CBC, BC’s Department of Tourism, Arts and Culture agreed that the return of ancestral remains and cultural artifacts is important to reconciliation, and said the Royal BC Museum has been repatriating Indigenous collections for “decades”. In a statement emailed to the CBC The ministry added: “Indigenous possessions and ancestral remains will remain available throughout the project for repatriation purposes.”
Whatever the fate of the museum’s costly reconstruction project, it has become a melting pot for BC’s colonial history. When it first opened in 1886 in the province’s former parliament building, it was in response to concerns about the province’s indigenous and natural artifacts being taken away by American and European museums. Decades later, at its BC premiere, WAC Bennett (1900-79) pledged CA$9.5 million to build a new home for the museum at its current location as part of Canada’s 1967 centennial celebrations. The resulting institution has been accused of failing to repatriate Indigenous artifacts and containing First Nations narratives.
Now efforts to modernize both his curatorial approach and his architecture are proving controversial.
Meanwhile in a recent op-ed in Victoria’s times colonist Newspaper, former museum director Martin Segger – who has served on the board of Unesco’s International Council for Museums and as president of the Commonwealth Museums Association – wrote that the project was “far-sighted, ambitious and required a leap of faith”.