New Report Advances Cultural Reconciliation

January 21, 2021
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After 114 years of separation, T’xwelátse — “Man Turned to Stone”— was returned to the Stó:lō people of Chilliwack from the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle. The fifteen years of efforts leading to the successful repatriation of the T’xwelátse demonstrates the need for adequate and respectful cultural reconciliation. 

SFU Archaeology professor George Nicholas’ work has long centered on such topics of Indigenous heritage protection, repatriation, and decolonization. In addition to developing and directing the SFU’s Indigenous Archaeology program at SFU’s campus in Kamloops in 1991, Nicholas recently co-authored a report with recommendations on advancing the decolonization of legislation affecting Indigenous cultural heritage. Recommendations for Decolonizing British Columbia’s Heritage-related Processes and Legislation is significant as it provides practical direction for decolonization in a comprehensive way.

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), which commissioned the report, administers the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Program and assists in cultural revitalization efforts. George Nicholas developed the paper in conjunction with David Schaepe and Kierstin Dolata from the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre. The report is the first phase in a multi-year effort in determining options for achieving equitable spaces and opportunities to recognize, include and revitalize Indigenous cultural heritage in B.C.

 
Cover page of Recommendations for Decolonizing British Columbia's Heritage-Related Processes and Legislation.

Such reports come at a crucial time as societal systems are challenged by a push for equity and justice. As SFU continues reconciliation efforts through the establishment of the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council and the implementation of 34 calls to action recommended by the ARC, emerging research and reports help keep the conversation going.

“Decolonization is as much a process as it is a goal, and it’s as much a political act as it is one of reconciliation and cultural renewal,” says Nicholas. “Reconciliation has to mean more than just saying 'Sorry'; it requires changing fundamentally how things are done."

The report will be of particular interest to people working in archeology and Indigenous cultural heritage, as well as to policymakers. The authors review provincial policies around heritage management and recommends practices and approaches specific to Indigenous culture. 

As decolonization and repatriation efforts continue, such as with the return ofT’xwelátse, efforts like this report will help governments and institutions be ready to advance reconciliation unconventionally and fearlessly. 

If you have questions about this paper or would like to receive a copy of this report, please contact info@fpcc.ca.

George Nicholas, SFU Archaeology professor