Monthly Archives: February 2009

Endangered Languages

Check out UNESCO’s interactive world map of endangered languages. The site also includes safeguarding projects seeking to preserve linguistic diversity all over the world.

A quick search of Canada’s languages reveals two completely extinct languages, Tsetsaut and Pentlatch, both on the Northwest Coast. In all, according to the map, 88 of Canada’s native languages are in danger.

This week I had the great pleasure of listening to Herb Joe talk about how the repatriation of Stone T’xwelatse gave the youth of his community a renewed interest in their own history and culture. As I see it, keeping endangered languages alive doesn’t only consist of language programs. A big part of it is convincing new generations that these languages are worth learning, as well as putting the languages in a larger cultural context. Even more than the object, I think the process of repatriation connects a community with their cultural heritage.

(via TEDBlog)

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Blackfoot ‘almost feel helpless’ in struggle to recover artifacts

The cultural centre at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, outside of Calgary, are cataloguing Blackfoot objects in museums all over the world in hopes of claiming their repatriation in the future.

“In Canada, there would be no push for legislation because they felt museums would work on good will,”McMaster said.

The amiable approach has been relatively successful, he said.

“If legislation is not enacted to protect the rightful cultural owners of these things, they’ll continue to be exploited.”

“I think it’s a perfect example of how powerless First Nations people are in all this,” Young Man said.

Some facilities simply aren’t prepared to give up pieces of their “bread-and-butter” displays, he said.

Claims to ownership don’t always work, though, according to Alfred Young Man, department head of the Indian Fine Arts department at the First Nations University of Canada.

The article laments the fact that there is no federal legislation on repatriation in Canada, and seems to say that legislation is the best option and gives the most power to native communities. Indeed, federal legislation might make the process of making a claim more straightforward, but USA’s NAGPRA is not without fault. The problem with legislation is that someone will always be excluded. In the States, bands or tribe that are not federally recognized have to no power to claim an object in a museum’s collection under NAGPRA. By dealing with repatriation claims on a case-by-case basis, Canadian museums have more flexibility.

(via The Calgary Herald)

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From “The Return of Cultural Treasures” by Jeanette Greenfield

But despite its title this is not a book about emptying the great museums of the world of their many treasures. ‘Return’ is part of a wider movement of cultural treasures and need not only mean restitution in the sense of reparation for wrongful taking. It may also refer to other kinds of restoration, reinstatement, and even rejuvenation and reunification. Inevitable museums are often central to this issue. What emerges is that objects ‘migrate’ sometimes legitimately and sometimes not. There are historical, political, legal, material and aesthetic considerations which govern this. A congruent feature of war, colonialism, missionary and archaeological expeditions and other cataclysmic events has been the transportation of art treasures on a global scale. Sometimes objects have also been peacefully and uncontroversially collected and bought. Such movemnts are a fascinating reflector of human history. Hardly a nation or tribe has remained untouched by this experience. All manner of individuals have participated, from common looters to men who attained high rank and office. The route of objects has sometimes been no less colourful and dramatic than that of the persons who initiated their journey.  (xiii)

More on the book.

I’ve just started reading this book, I’ll be sharing from it in the weeks  to come.

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Mission Statement

Welcome to Allowed To Return! Read more about why this blog exists on the About page, or read on for the blog’s mission statement.

In this blog, I will:

-Feature recent and developing news stories concerning repatriated cultural material, claims for repatriation, museum policies or legislation.

-Go beyond the headlines and look at repatriation through published research, audio and video resources, as well as foster conversation about the issues concerning repatriation.

I will strive to:

-Portray issues of repatriation and the parties involved in them in a fair and objective manner.

-Be transparent and acknowledge that, as a student who is constantly learning, I may be subject to biases which I will do my best to correct, or at least hold them up for examination.


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