"In the past, many Indigenous "cultural objects", which we call treasures, were wrongfully taken, and, in many cases, stolen from Indigenous owners, families and communities. These treasures, including the sacred remains of our ancestors, must be returned,” said Grand Chief Edward John on behalf of the First Nations Summit.
“We welcome the Premier's commitment to this process of repatriation."
British Columbia announced June 21 that it will begin “a conversation with interested Aboriginal peoples in B.C.” to co-create a plan to identify and return ancestral remains and belongings of cultural significance, including grave goods, ceremonial regalia and shamanic material. The province said the Royal BC Museum will provide its expertise.
Grand Chief John said repatriation plans must be developed with the full and active participation of Indigenous peoples. Where there are obstacles preventing repatriation, legislative or administrative actions must be taken on a priority basis to provide remedies to ensure the expeditious return of the cultural treasures.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a constructive framework for this repatriation process. Article 12 of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples confirms:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.
The First Nations Summit is committed to working with all levels of government to actively assist in repatriating cultural artifacts that rightfully belong to BC First Nations.