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Decolonizing Heritage

The First Peoples' Cultural Council released a paper on decolonizing British Columbia's heritage policies and legislation. "Recommendations for Decolonizing British Columbia’s Heritage-Related Processes and Legislation" was prepared by David Schaepe, George Nicholas, and Kierstin Dolata. This paper will be essential reading for all who are interested in Indigenous heritage in the province. Here is a portion of the reports Executive Summary:

"This report was prepared at the request of the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council to conduct directed research and analysis of the BC Heritage Branch’s policies, programs, guidelines and laws. The goal is to aid with developing more inclusive, collaborative opportunities for Indigenous cultural heritage (ICH) management and stewardship in British Columbia. This report is the first phase in a multi-year effort to access and determine options for achieving equitable spaces and opportunities to recognize, include and revitalize ICH in British Columbia.

"This report addresses three specific tasks:

  1. To review and comment on the Heritage Branch’s policies, programs, guidelines and laws represented in the 17 documents listed in Table 1;
  2. To conduct generalized research on good practices and approaches, initiatives, programs, policies and legislations that relate to ICH nationally and internationally; and
  3. To summarize the research findings and develop a set of recommendations.

"We discuss the pressing need to rethink ICH protection and management in settler countries such as Canada where the dominant portion of ICH places (including archaeological sites) is not ancestral to the dominant population. We discuss key terms and concepts, including “Indigenous cultural heritage,” “heritage,” “decolonization,” and “indigenization.” While oriented to the goal of decolonization, our report acknowledges such essential topics as ICH as a human right and a means of social justice, and ICH engagement as an expression of identity, history and well-being. We refer to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action in informing our assessment and recommendations."