SUMMARY and CONCLUSION by Bev Nicholson, David Pokotylo and Ron Williamson
In the beginning of the process, the Aboriginal Heritage Committee defined three primary objectives. The first objective - to develop, through extensive consultation with the Aboriginal and archaeological communities, a Statement of Principles for ethical archaeological practice and minimum standards for intercommunity communication - is realized in this document. While the Statement explicitly defines ethical archaeological practice, the standards for intercommunity communication are only implicit. We expect that members of the Association will, in the spirit of this document, negotiate and respect local protocols, developed in consultation with Aboriginal communities.
With respect to the second objective of the mandate, policies and concepts to assist government agencies to realize consensual management of Aboriginal heritage features are also not explicitly stated. They are, however, implicitly recognized in the principle of mutual respect and the policy of local consultation. Indeed, we hope that various provincial and federal agencies will embrace the spirit and intent of the Statement in the regulation of archaeological practice within their jurisdictions. We acknowledge that further work is necessary to fully realize this objective.
While it is true that the consultation process to produce this document directly involved representatives of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, an actual recruitment program remains to be established. On the other hand, members of both the national committee (Brian Scribe and Eldon Yellowhorn) and regional committees, visited various Aboriginal communities in Canada in an effort to inform them of issues pertaining to archaeology and to encourage their involvement not only in the process but in the discipline.
It is quite evident that members of each regional working group expended considerable effort and energy in developing a workable approach to the particular political and social contexts in their respective areas. Perhaps the most salient observation identified as a result of this process is that this first step of formal consultation was welcomed by archaeological practitioners and Aboriginal communities across the country. This is evident in every regional report where it is noted that the dialogue between the two communities has now started and both sides are now more aware of issues and concerns regarding the practice of archaeology in the 1990s. One comment from a Prairie Region Elder summarized this best:
- We are now in a new era in which Aboriginal people and archaeologists must start learning to work together hand in hand and in mutual respect.
It is evident, however, that neither group is completely satisfied with the current statement. The development of a national position was impossible to reach given different jurisdictions within which archaeologists work, and various perceptions and attitudes toward archaeological heritage held by Aboriginal communities across the country. At present, the most practical solution to these differences is the development of local protocols, which recognize and respect both the goals of archaeology as a discipline and the interests and rights of local Aboriginal communities.
This is the new reality for conducting archaeological research in Canada. We expect that the members of the Association will abide by this Statement, if ratified, and will respect the rights and sensitivities of Aboriginal peoples regarding their archaeological heritage.
The work of this committee is by no means complete. We recommend that the Association establish a permanent body to continue the mandate of this committee, to monitor our progress across the country as we strive to develop better working relationships with Aboriginal peoples. This body might also advocate that provincial and federal regulatory agencies adopt the positions inherent in the Statement in the administration of archaeological practice within their jurisdictions and explore options with universities and other interested agencies to facilitate Aboriginal involvement in archaeology.
We believe that this has been a process of healing and reconciliation, but it is only the beginning.