The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island constitute the Maritime region. Each Maritime province has different government agencies and separate pieces of legislation relating to archaeological/heritage matters. Aboriginal people in each province have their own organizations, leaders, Elders, educators and other interested individuals. The archaeological community, although not a large one, consists of federal and provincial government employees, consultants, educators and students.

The challenge lay in knowing how to approach people for their input. A large portion of the people concerned were totally unaware of the existence of the Canadian Archaeological Association. Further, ethical conduct pertaining to Aboriginal heritage and archaeological research is a highly sensitive and often times controversial subject.


After informal consultation with various members of both the archaeological and Aboriginal communities, it was decided best to hold as many workshops or discussions in each province as was possible given the limited budget and time frame. Firstly, however, both communities had to be made aware of the AHC, its composition, its objectives and time schedule, as well as the CAA/AAC's past initiatives concerning Aboriginal heritage issues. All Maritime archaeologists and interested students were invited to participate. The Aboriginal community was informed through introductory letters and information packages that were mailed out in no particular organized fashion, but included elected Micmac and Maliseet leaders, political umbrella organizations, women's groups, Friendship Centres and cultural institutions, as well as Elders and other individuals who were known to have previously demonstrated an interest in matters of historical or cultural concern. These persons provided three preliminary mailing lists for each province. Additional names were recommended and added to the lists after each and every meeting.

During the two years between the spring of 1993 and the spring of 1995, a series of meetings, workshops and/or talking circles were held in each province. There were three meetings in Nova Scotia, four in New Brunswick and two in Prince Edward Island. Meeting response was good, with the average attendance at meetings in New Brunswick 26 people, in Nova Scotia, 20 people, and in Prince Edward Island, six people. The meetings were generally equally attended by archaeologists and Aboriginal people.

Economical venues for the discussions were found in universities, provincial museums, Friendship Centres, Aboriginal government offices and in hotels. As much as possible, an effort was made to make all participants feel comfortable with their surroundings. Individual presentations were also made by the author to the Nova Scotia group of professional archaeologists, to the New Brunswick Archaeological Society and to participants in Saint Thomas University's 1994 "Native Awareness Days." The total budget allotted the Maritime region for the process was approximately $10,000.

The workshops were most often opened by an Elder and conducted in a talking circle format. In the circle everyone could discuss their views without interruption. This was critically important during the initial meetings when matters of local concern needed to be aired. From the outset, it was evident that there was a general need for greater communication between the Aboriginal community and archaeologists. The people who had gathered together under the AHC really needed to talk on a regular basis.

Most discussions were summarized in point form and then distributed to meeting participants. Participants were asked to critique the meeting summaries and make changes if they thought changes were necessary. Important points from the accumulated summaries were then used by the author as the platform for Maritime input to the national level meetings. The author also received and submitted individual letters from those who had been unable to attend our meetings. A "Code of Ethics" was independently drafted and submitted by the Native Council of Prince Edward Island.

Following the presentation of the Draft Guidelines for Ethical Conduct Pertaining to Aboriginal Heritage Research and Communication, copies of the guidelines were circulated among the Maritime committee members. Discussion meetings were then held with this document as the focus of attention. Aboriginal participants called for stronger wording as well as for more equal and positive partnerships between First Nations and the CAA/AAC.

In February of 1995, the draft guidelines were transformed into the Statement of Principles presented at the 1995 CAA/AAC annual meeting in Kelowna. Prior to this, two final meetings were held, one in Nova Scotia and another in New Brunswick. The Statement of Principles was put on the table for review. The document has left a number of participants with mixed feelings.

The process of consultation was summed up by the Director of Nova Scotia's Micmac Association of Cultural Studies, Peter Christmas, during one of the discussions held in Halifax in 1994.


  • This whole process is about moral correctness... any moral person would see how much communication, interaction and respect needs to be shown the Native people and their heritage sites... researchers can stand back and analyze and acknowledge the Jesuits' lack of understanding but do they examine themselves similarly?

Evaluation of Process

The first reaction by most Aboriginal participants to the Statement of Principles was that it was far too brief and watered down compared to the earlier draft guidelines that were circulated. Instead of becoming stronger, as was requested in earlier meetings, the content of the document was seen to have become weaker. Other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal voices stated that the document was acceptable, if only as a first step towards developing more in-depth local protocols. Although not everyone is pleased with the Principles, the overall effort to formulate them has had a positive impact on communication in the Maritime region.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Although much of the overall discussion was spent on local and regional issues, a number of universal concerns could be identified from these discussions. The concerns included:


  • 1) The overwhelming need for respect of sacred sites including burial places.

    2) The need for Aboriginal heritage studies to be conducted with much consultation and open communication between archaeologists and Aboriginal communities.

    3) The need for more Aboriginal training and educational opportunities in the field of Aboriginal heritage studies.

    4) The need for fuller Aboriginal participation in Aboriginal heritage projects.

    5) The need to respect oral traditions and to recognize Aboriginal interpretation as a valid point during all levels of research, especially during archaeological impact assessments.

    6) The need to report findings in a timely and understandable format.


As well as the above, the participants agreed that there was a need for stronger provincial legislation to protect Aboriginal heritage sites on private lands and that there was a need to complete Maritime coastal site inventories. The question of "ownership" of sites and artifacts also came up at most meetings. Although there was a fair amount of heated discussion on this topic, no consensus of opinion could be derived from it.

At the suggestion of Dwight Dorey, leader of Nova Scotia's Native Council, the Maritime participants would like to have the last line of the Preamble reworded to state, "As the heritage of First Nations Peoples makes up the greater part of the Canadian archaeological record, this document presents a Statement of Principles that guides members of the Association in their relationship with Aboriginal peoples." We see this as a reasonable request which acknowledges the importance of Aboriginal heritage to Canada and to ourselves as archaeologists.

Finally, a short lesson in understanding from Rosalee Tizya, who recently spoke at a public forum on Human Rights in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1995. She explained very simply how we may come to a better understanding of each other's world view and thus, be more considerate of each other's feelings.

Visualize yourself, a non-Native sitting on one side of a large circle. Opposite you on the other side of the circle sits a Native person. Your experiences, culture and way of life are very different. An unknown object with two different faces is set in the centre of the circle. One face is turned towards you and the other is turned towards the Native person. Both of you are asked to describe what it is. The descriptions turn out to be considerably different. You and the person opposite you view the object from separate cultural and physical positions. What may look to you like one thing looks very different to the other person. If you do not get up and walk at least half way around the circle, your description and understanding of the object will always be very one-sided. If both persons walk and meet and talk about what they see, the reality of the object becomes clearer.

This circle lesson in understanding may be phrased very simply, but it holds a clear message for all human beings. While we cannot expect to totally understand another person's view, we can, if we take a few steps, become more aware of their reasoning and their feelings.

Walking is not always easy, but its good for the heart.


I would like to thank all the participants who took time away from their busy schedules to attend the Maritime discussions. I would especially like to thank the Elders who assisted in the process by setting a tranquil atmosphere for the beginning of most of our meetings. Thanks are also extended to those who could not attend but who sent material to be included in our discussions. I must also thank my employer for allowing me to do a significant portion of the Committee work on New Brunswick government time.

To the CAA/AAC, I thank you for offering me the opportunity to work on this Committee and to speak with so many people about something that genuinely concerns them. The task assigned to the AHC was not an easy one. In almost every Maritime meeting, past and sometimes present actions by members of the archaeological community were reviewed and questioned. Sometimes a pressing local issue dominated the discussion and the need for greater, more open communication was clearly spelled out without anyone mentioning it.