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Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Indigenous Heritage Survey
Thanks to all who filled out the Indigenous Heritage Survey as part of the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Island Archaeology Project. We are very appreciative of the spectrum of responses received and agree with the respondents who noted that this is the beginning of a much-needed discussion about Indigenous heritage on the island. We provide here a short overview of the results. In the future, these results will be the foundation for the project workshops, education, and on-going dialogue.
The response rate to the survey was very high (169 people), reflecting broad interest in the topic. We recognize that the views represented in the responses do not fully represent the community. For example, a few people chose not to respond to the survey because they felt it was biased, or because they felt strongly about their rights to their property. However, given that the vast majority of respondents (~85%) have lived here more than 10 years and spend more than 6 months a year on island (~76%), we estimate that a large proportion of the “permanent” and deeply connected island population over 18 responded to the survey. We encourage others who did not respond to the survey, or who left some questions blank, to join in the discussion however they feel comfortable.
We also seek to hear the voices of people of diverse ages. About half of the respondents to our survey were younger than 60 years in age. However, the largest single age category of respondents were people over 60. While this in part reflects the demography of the island, it also tells us that we need to ensure we are working with all age groups in this project. As we continue to analyze the survey results, we will be paying special attention to whether age influences survey responses.
An overwhelming result of the survey is the widespread interest in learning more about Xwe’etay/Lasqueti’s Indigenous archaeology and heritage more generally. Reasons given varied but can be summarized with sentiments like, because “[archaeology] is so damn cool” and because “it helps us understand where we are”. Of the landowners who know they have an archaeological site on their property, ~79% feel curiosity and respect for those sites, while ~15% feel concern over the potential implications. The vast majority of respondents (~89%) believe that it is important to protect Indigenous heritage in general, while only 3% of respondents believe it is not important to do so. Reasons offered for protecting Indigenous heritage varied, but many respondents talked of respect and responsibility to the land and its descendent communities. The majority (85%) of respondents thought protecting archaeological heritage is part of reconciliation.
Significantly, when asked specifically about protecting Indigenous archaeological heritage on private property, the responses were mixed. The majority of respondents were split evenly between those who categorically said that sites on private property should be protected (48%) and those that thought it was context dependent (49%). A very small number of people (4%) thought sites should not be protected at all.
Many folks recognized the complexity at the core of heritage conservation: how to protect and honor Indigenous heritage at the same time as recognizing settler connections to the land on which they live. For instance, one respondent said, “We do need to look to the future as well as the past. Diversity is important, however, it is only part of the heritage of this place now”. It is just this complexity that we hope tackle head on in the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Archaeology Project.
Not surprisingly, there was a mix of responses about how best to protect archaeological heritage, and indeed, unpacking this issue is at the core of the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Archaeology Project. People generally felt the responsibility for protecting heritage should be shared among all sectors and communities (e.g., landowners, Provincial and Federal Governments, First Nations, local community). About 65% of the respondents believe that developing some kind of heritage policy would be beneficial to provide guidelines, but enforcing the policy was less clear. As one person said, “Policies only work if the population accepts them and if not, there needs to be sufficient resources and political will to enforce violators. I'm not sure local or provincial governments are ready.” Many respondents did recognize, however, the value of having a local community archaeologist(s) to help guide heritage protection.
Again, thanks to all of you for engaging in this discussion. This community-centered project will only produce meaningful results, if people talk openly and respectfully about heritage-related issues.