Although the Beothuks, the Aboriginal people of Newfoundland who met the first European fishermen and explorers to the island, became extinct in 1829, the province is now home to three Aboriginal groups. The Inuit, represented by the Labrador Inuit Association (LIA), live in the Labrador portion of the province and reside in a number of communities, primarily on the northern coast. The other group indigenous to Labrador are the Innu (formerly known as the Naskapi-Montagnais) who live in two communities, Shetshashit and Utshimassit (Davis Inlet). The Innu are represented by the Innu Nation of Nistassinan. Today, the island portion of the province is home to the Micmac who live in a number of communities, the largest of which is Conne River on the island's south coast. The people of Conne River are represented by the Miawpukek Band Council, while the Micmacs, who live elsewhere in Newfoundland, are represented by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.

Prior to 1992, no formal procedures were in place either to require archaeologists to seek permission from Aboriginal groups before working in Newfoundland and Labrador, or to mandate cooperation and consultation during and after archaeological investigation. Prior to the 1980s, there had been relatively little archaeological reconnaissance and excavation carried out in areas claimed by the Micmac people, and, ultimately, the major archaeological effort in this area was undertaken by archaeologists hired by the Miawpukek Band Council as part of the land claims process. As for Labrador, archaeologists working there did hire Aboriginal crew members on occasion and did sometimes provide information, in an informal way, to members of Aboriginal communities, but by the end of the 1980s it was clear that this arrangement was not acceptable to the Aboriginal peoples of this province, particularly the Innu and Inuit of Labrador.


The impetus for a set of guidelines for archaeologists, and indeed, other researchers, working in areas of Newfoundland and Labrador claimed by Aboriginal people initially came from both the Innu and the Inuit. In July, 1992, Peter Armitage, an anthropologist who works for the Innu Nation, provided members of Memorial University's Archaeology Unit with a document entitled "Innu Nation Policy Regarding Archaeological Research in Nitassinan" from the then chief of the Innu Nation, Daniel Ashini. That document very clearly set out the principles which archaeologists would be required to adhere to in Labrador. In brief, that policy statement outlined a process whereby archaeologists who desired to work in regions claimed by the Innu would submit proposals to the Innu Nation prior to carrying out research in the relevant area of Labrador. Such proposals would be required to include provision for the employment and training of Innu people, and would be subject to peer review by referees chosen by the Innu Nation. The policy statement also required that archaeologists furnish the Innu Nation with the written results of their investigations.

In October of the same year, the author organized a conference at which Isabelle Ford of the Land Claims Team of the Labrador Inuit Association presented a paper which outlined a protocol for archaeologists working in Northern Labrador. In spirit, it was very similar to the Innu document. The Labrador Inuit also insisted that archaeologists request permission from the LIA prior to coming to Labrador, that they hire members of the Inuit community as field workers, and that they provide information about their activities after the archaeological investigations were completed.

In part because of this conference, the author was asked to join the AHC in the winter of 1993. Gary Baikie of the Labrador Inuit Association, Shayne Mcdonald, former Chief of the Conne River Micmacs, Gerard Webb, President of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, and Peter Armitage, representing the Innu Nation, were asked to act as liaisons between the Committee and the Aboriginal groups of the province. When Deborah Webster of the NWT resigned from the Committee, her place was taken by Gary Baikie who assumed responsibility for consultation with the Labrador Inuit. In June of 1993, a meeting was held in St. John's with representatives from the academic community, consulting archaeologists, the Provincial Government, and the Innu, to explain the work of the Aboriginal Heritage Committee. By March of the following year, copies of the Committee's draft guidelines had been sent to the Conne River Micmacs, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and to the Innu Nation. It should be noted that the major principles of those guidelines were very much in keeping with both the Innu and the Inuit policy regarding archaeological research, and throughout this period, CAA/AAC members working in Labrador have followed these local protocols. The final consultation with representatives of Aboriginal groups about these guidelines took place in August, 1994 when the author met with the new chief of the Miawpukek (Micmac) Band Council, Michael Joe, to discuss the guidelines with him.

Evaluation of Process

In the past, archaeologists in Newfoundland and Labrador have sometimes felt caught between the conflicting interests of Aboriginal peoples pursuing land claims and those of the Provincial Government. A very positive step toward alleviating this situation was taken in December of 1994 when representatives of the Historic Resources Division of the Department of Tourism and Culture and the Justice Department met with academic and consulting archaeologists. The question of the role of First Nations in archaeology in Newfoundland was on the agenda, and the parties attending agreed to a future meeting held by Memorial University's Archaeology Unit at which representatives of all of the stakeholders, government, archaeologists, and First Nations, would be invited.

This meeting was a very hopeful sign. While there are still a number of problems to be worked out, the principles outlined in the AHC guidelines are working in Newfoundland and Labrador. Archaeologists from Memorial University and from the consulting community now follow the policies first enunciated by the Innu Nation and the Labrador Inuit Association. In addition, archaeologists from Memorial University have provided assessment of proposals for archaeological work in Labrador to both the Labrador Inuit Association and the Innu Nation.


A concrete example of this new spirit of cooperation between First Nations, the Newfoundland government, and the archaeological community, occurred in the summer of 1995, when, in response to a request from the Labrador Inuit Association, the reburial of a number of Inuit remains was negotiated by the provincial government and Memorial University. These remains had been excavated from northern Labrador more than twenty-five years ago and had been in the custody of Memorial University's Archaeology Unit since that time. The fact that this sensitive issue was resolved to the satisfaction of all of the parties involved has given rise to a hope that we have found a way to satisfy the interests of First Nations, government, and archaeologists.