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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