Sterling Prize 2021: Challenging the role of museums in an era of reconciliation

Sdahl K’awaas (also known as Lucy Bell) is the recipient of the 2021 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy for her bravery in calling out racism in the heritage field and advocating for change in an era of reconciliation.

In 2020, Sdahl K’awaas resigned as the head of the Indigenous Collections and Repatriation Department at the Royal British Columbia Museum, citing personal and institutional racism. Since then, Sdahl K’awaas, a member of the Haida Nation, has called on museums to reflect on themselves and be more accountable, anti-racist institutions. She says now is the time for museums to reflect on their colonial legacy, foster better relationships with Indigenous people and address racism within the workplace.

Sdahl K’awaas, who continues to support the Haida Nation’s repatriation efforts while working toward her PhD in individualized interdisciplinary studies at Simon Fraser University, will receive the Sterling Prize and deliver a lecture on these issues on Thursday, Oct. 14. The award ceremony will be held at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver and will be livestreamed for the public.

The Sterling Prize was first awarded in 1993 and remains committed to recognizing work that provokes and contributes to the understanding of controversy, while presenting new ways of looking at the world and challenging complacency. The prize recognizes work across disciplines and departments and is awarded annually by the Sterling Prize committee.