This report presents the results of consultation undertaken between Spring, 1993 and Spring, 1995 for the B.C./Yukon regional working committee. British Columbia and the Yukon were grouped as a single region following informal discussions with a number of Yukon archaeologists who agreed that they would be comfortable with a B.C.-based committee representative as long as there was frequent communication.

In both the past and present, the two regions have had different experiences of formal and informal communications between archaeologists and First Nations. The land claims settlements presently negotiated in the Yukon include formal archaeological and heritage agreements and protocols. The political setting for archaeology in B.C. is rapidly shifting with recent amendments to the Heritage Conservation Act (Bill 21, 1994) and the ongoing treaty negotiation process. Apland's (1993) discussion of the role of the provincial government in B.C. archaeology provides an historical perspective.


The process of consultation posed logistical problems for both B.C. and the Yukon: there are a large number of First Nation communities (over 200 Bands in B.C.), many of which are in isolated rural locations and travel distances are long and expensive. Given the limited committee budget, these problems were addressed by communicating through a series of comprehensive mail-outs and regional meetings, supplemented by meetings with communities, organizations, and institutions on request.

It became clear, early in the process, that a formal regional committee representing professional archaeologists and First Nations was not possible, due to the time commitment involved, the regional and local nature of many issues, and concern on the part of First Nations in B.C. that all groups should be fairly represented, given the treaty negotiation environment.

Consultative efforts began in Spring, 1993 with an initial information meeting at Simon Fraser University and a comprehensive mail-out to over 300 Tribal Councils, Bands, governments, academic, and consulting archaeologists, describing the mandate of the Aboriginal Heritage Committee. I also attended several meetings of Aboriginal organizations in B.C. at their request, where they described their concerns. A document that included the AHC's "eleven points for discussion" was distributed by mail to the full B.C./Yukon mailing list to solicit comments.

In November, 1993, at the B.C. Archaeological Forum at Simon Fraser University, a full morning forum was devoted to discussing problems and issues in ethical archaeological practice in B.C. Over 60 archaeologists and First Nations representatives participated in the open discussion, with a full spectrum of viewpoints represented: academics, consultants, government, students, including First Nations archaeology students, and representatives from Bands and Tribal Councils from throughout the province.

In April, 1994, the draft guidelines developed by the National Committee were sent out for comment to C.A.A. members, Bands, Tribal Councils and archaeologists throughout B.C. and the Yukon. The Draft Guidelines were also printed in The Midden, the newsletter of the Archaeological Society of British Columbia, and were made available at the 1994 Edmonton CAA Forum.

In November, 1994, B.C. archaeologists and First Nations representatives from Bands and Tribal Councils met again at the annual B.C. Archaeology Forum hosted by the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society/Simon Fraser University program on Kamloops Indian Reserve. Regional concerns, including ethics, were the focus of discussions.

At the AHC meeting in February, 1995, it became evident that the Draft Guidelines were not acceptable across Canada: regional differences were too great across the country for detailed guidelines to be meaningful or even useful. Thus, the National Committee extracted the principles embodied in these guidelines with two important omissions - ownership and informed consent. Through committee discussions, it became apparent that these would have to be addressed through regionally and locally developed protocols and guidelines.

In the Spring of 1995, the revised draft Statement of Principles was sent out to the comprehensive B.C./Yukon mailing list for comments.

Throughout the course of this process, a large amount of information on archaeological ethics from other areas (e.g. Australian Archaeology Code) was collected by the author, and made available upon request. Requests for information have come from Bands, Tribal Councils, and archaeology students.

Evaluation of Process

Since 1992, contact has been made in the B.C./Yukon region, by mail and through a series of consultative meetings, with over 320 organizations and individuals, including 265 Aboriginal organizations and the professional archaeological community (universities and colleges, government, consultants). A total of 80 written and verbal responses have been received: 50 from the professional community and 30 from First Nations.

In 1993, following the distribution of the eleven "points for discussion" (see Introduction), numerous responses were received - most from Aboriginal organizations in both B.C. and the Yukon. From the Yukon, in particular, existing protocols were sent which addressed most of these discussion points.

In 1994, numerous responses to the Draft Guidelines were received. Based on the responses, First Nations communities and organizations agreed that their concerns had been addressed, although there were questions about enforcement and the process of consultation. Active professional archaeologists in B.C. and the Yukon, based on responses received, were also in general agreement with the principles embodied in these guidelines, although there were concerns and questions about enforcement, the process of consultation, and that expectations in Aboriginal communities would be raised which the profession would be unable to meet.

Also in response to the 1994 Draft Guidelines, the B.C. Archaeology Branch raised concerns that archaeologists who obtained the informed consent of a Band or Tribal Council to conduct research would be acting outside the legal permitting system. Since that time, First Nations consultation (although not "informed consent"), prior to the issuing of a B.C. archaeology permit, has become a legal requirement.

The 1995 draft Statement of Principles was commented upon by B.C. and Yukon archaeologists at the 1995 CAA/AAC meeting in Kelowna, who generally agreed that regionally-developed protocols would be an appropriate way to establish research guidelines and standards. Written responses were also received in B.C. from the 17 Chiefs of the Shuswap Nation, who raised concerns beyond the mandate of the committee.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The professional community in B.C. and the Yukon are in general agreement with the principles in the draft documents. The two main areas of concern of First Nations are informed consent and ownership. It has become clear, through the course of this process, that these concerns will have to be addressed though regional protocols rather than in a national accord. In this regard, the regional consultation process has had value beyond its initial purpose, by creating a forum or space for ongoing dialogue on ethics/responsibility between archaeologists and First Nations communities and organizations.

Currently in the Yukon, formal agreements in many areas outline protocols and guidelines for interactions between archaeologists and First Nations. In B.C., the situation is not as developed but is changing rapidly with court decisions, ongoing treaty negotiations, and heritage policy initiatives by government, First Nations, and professional archaeologists (academic institutions and consulting organizations).

In the Spring of 1993, I made some notes to myself that have helped guide me though this process. I made the analogy that the development of guidelines for ethical conduct between archaeologists and First Nations might be similar to guidelines for ethical conduct between men and women - it wouldn't be something that men could develop all by themselves. Ideally, these guidelines for ethical conduct would seek an end to victimizing and feeling victimized - by respecting each other's boundaries and by both groups understanding their own power and seeking to understand one another. Such guidelines should be based on mutual respect and responsibility.

Through the consultative process, I have also come to the understanding that archaeologists have four areas of ethical responsibility in their research involving Aboriginal communities. Best described to me by Chief Agnes Snow of the Canoe Creek Shuswap Band, these four areas are: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If local guidelines and protocols take these four aspects of our responsibilities into account then, as Chief Agnes explained to me, nothing should fall between the cracks.

Reference cited:

Apland, Brian
1993 The Roles of the Provincial Government in British Columbia Archaeology. BC Studies Vol. 99, p.7-24.