(HYBRID IN-PERSON / ONLINE) Indigenous Data Sovereignty in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Thursday, May 4, 2023 - 8:00am to 10:30am
Muin Room (Hybrid)
  • Lisa Hodgetts, The University of Western Ontario
Contact Email: 
Session Description (300 word max): 

Indigenous data sovereignty, the right to steward and control data created with them or about them, is an important aspect of Indigenous Peoples’ inherent right to self-determination. Across the land we now call Canada, Indigenous belongings have been and continue to be removed from Indigenous cultural sites by archaeologists. With few exceptions, archaeological survey and excavation, the rights of stewardship and control of the extracted objects, and all associated information, are governed by legislation that asserts colonial government (provincial/territorial or federal) control over them. While discussions about repatriating/rematriating Ancestors’ remains and cultural belongings to Indigenous communities have been ongoing for decades, we are just beginning to seriously consider the important role of data governance – the strategies, policies and laws dealing with data collection, management, preservation, curation, accessibility and ownership – in those conversations. This session invites diverse contributions exploring the movement towards Indigenous data sovereignty in the cultural heritage realm. What are the implications for heritage management within Indigenous organizations/governments, settler governments and the commercial sector? How does upholding Indigenous data sovereignty reorient archaeological, cultural heritage and digital heritage research? What does it mean for digital data management? We welcome submissions of case studies and broader reflections that engage with these questions and other related themes.

08:00 AM: Changing Perspectives One Page at a Time: Publication of Points of View
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Tomasin Playford - Saskatchewan Archaeological Society

In late 2022, the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society published Points of View: A Guide on Saskatchewan Projectile Points with Indigenous Perspectives. Prior to this, no Saskatchewan-specific field guide existed to aid readers in the understanding and identification of projectile points. More than an identification guide, this book includes chapters by Indigenous authors on the artistry of stone tools, knapping knowledge systems, connections to the land, and responsible curation of collections. This presentation will highlight how the project came to be, the timeline, the team and collaborative processes, funding and promotional strategies, as well as how to evaluate if it does indeed ‘change perspectives’.

08:20 AM: Management, Access and Curation: Addressing Challenges in Indigenous Data Sovereignty in two Inuvialuit Digital Heritage Projects
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Lisa Hodgetts - The University of Western Ontario
  • Natasha  Lyons - Ursus Heritage consulting
  • Emily Henry - The University of Western Ontario
  • Ali Shiri - University of Alberta
  • Sharon Farnel - University of Alberta
  • Ethel-Jean Gruben - Inuvialuit Cultural Centre
  • Beverly Amos - Inuvialuit Cultural Centre
  • Lena Kotokak - Inuvialuit Cultural Centre

The Inuvialuit Cultural Centre is involved in two long-standing collaborations with southern university-based researchers to facilitate digital access to Inuvialuit heritage. Both revolve around important issues of data sovereignty. The Inuvialuit Living History team is developing a website that brings together Inuvialuit belongings held in museums with Inuvialuit-created content – stories, text, videos, photos, art – capitalizing on the power of the digital realm to bring Inuvialuit belongings back into relationship with ongoing cultural expressions. The Inuvialuit Digital Library is a digital library and archive created to preserve and increase the accessibility of cultural heritage audio, video, and images as well as Inuvialuktun language resources held by the Inuvialuit Cultural Centre. Guided by principles of Indigenous data governance, both projects are working to develop data and metadata management structures that reflect Inuvialuit priorities and cultural principles, and grappling with the challenges of long-term preservation and access. In doing so, they must navigate the currently limited capacity among Inuvialuit for building and maintaining digital heritage resources, and slow internet speeds in many Inuvialuit communities. Here, we explore these issues, our efforts to mitigate them, and future plans for capacity building to uphold Inuvialuit data sovereignty in digital heritage going forward.

08:40 AM: Moving towards Inuit Self-Determination in Nunavut Archaeology
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Lesley Howse - Inuit Heritage Trust Inc.
  • Aasivak Arnaquq-Baril - Inuit Heritage Trust Inc.

Archaeology in Nunavut continues to dispossess and disconnect Inuit from tangible and intangible parts of Inuit cultural heritage. The current territorial guidelines for archaeology were created in 2003 and focus on the protection and preservation of cultural sites but they fail to fully recognize Inuit Rights to control, maintain, and access Inuit cultural heritage. The creation of Inuit Heritage Trust (IHT) was ratified in the Nunavut Agreement (NA), to represent Inuit interests in Nunavut cultural heritage. In accordance with Article 33.4.3 of the NA, IHT is increasing our responsibilities through a series of initiatives. In this paper, we discuss plans to advance Inuit governance and move Nunavut archaeology from a process of extraction to investment through the introduction of new guidelines. We share the steps we’re taking towards Inuit data sovereignty in Nunavut archaeology and the enduring colonial mindsets that hinder progress. Recentering Inuit Societal Values, we invoke the principle of Piliriqatigiiniq and identify ways archaeologists and southern institutions can work with us to help establish Inuit self-determination in our field.

09:00 AM: Learning from the Land: The Application of Archaeology and Land-Based Learning as an Experiential Learning Tool for Building Intercultural Competency
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Lindsay Amundsen-Meyer - University of Calgary
  • Kelsey Pennanen - University of Calgary
  • Kristal Turner - University of Calgary
  • Patricia Campos Diaz - University of Calgary

The written nature of Western society and oral basis of Indigenous society present a key difference in the way we approach the world (Duarte and Belarde-Lewis 2015; Kovach 2000; Scully 2012). Within an Indigenous ontology, there is an inseparable relationship between story and knowing and a holistic nature to this knowledge (Kovach 2000). Stories, then, become a valuable tool for teaching and learning, which can also be used in other areas where value is placed on contextualized knowledge, such as in the discipline of archaeology. Through the inclusion of Siksika teachers/elders in our institution’s archaeology field school on the Siksika Nation, we attempt to present culturally appropriate curricula which increases student’s intercultural competency. Our Scholarship of Teaching and Learning study sought to evaluate our teaching pedagogy and to understand what value or degree of value students attach to instructional methods which incorporate Indigenous teachers/elders to deliver concepts of ethics and Indigenous histories, worldviews, and current realities. Using the First Nations Lifelong Learning Model (Canadian Council for Learning 2007) as a guide, we examine data from student reflective journals to evaluate the cultural inclusivity of the curricula developed and the value to students of this pedagogical approach.

09:20 AM: Technicians of Remembrance: Data Sovereignty and the Digital Preservation of Former Indian Residential Schools in Alberta.
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Peter Dawson - University of Calgary
  • Christina Robinson - University of Calgary
  • Madisen Hvidberg - University of Calgary

John Aycock (2022) has recently noted that because digital artifacts are now ubiquitous in contemporary life, they are destined to become mainstream in archaeological investigations of human culture. If so, then appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches need to be developed and deployed for their study. One of the most important challenges is determining who has stewardship and control over digital artifacts in a world that increasingly values the principles of Open Access. Our research group has been involved in the digital documentation of three former Indian Residential School buildings in Alberta. This work is being guided by cultural advisory committees comprised of Indigenous scholars, knowledge keepers, and former students who see the digital replicas of each school as helping to ensure the legacy of residential schools in Canada is not forgotten. In this presentation, we outline the methodological approaches we have collaboratively developed in areas of metadata archiving and online storage of the laser scanning data. We also discuss how each advisory committee has approached the issue of access and ownership of these extremely important digital data sets. As this is an ongoing project, we offer a preliminary overview of our experiences to date.

09:40 AM: Multidimensional Curation and Stewardship of Indigenous Cultural Heritage: A Community Museum Approach
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Lindsay Foreman - Township of Langley

Patience. Perseverance. Creating space and time. This has guided my work as the Curator of Indigenous Arts and Culture with the Township of Langley over the past two years. The ultimate goal: for the Township’s museum team (and the entire municipality) to acknowledge past missteps and to move forward in a good way with land-based and urban Indigenous community members.

The Township has faced many challenges as it prepares to open the community’s new arts, culture, and heritage facility, salishan Place by the River, in present-day Fort Langley. The museum team’s localized approach has been informed by the Canadian Museums Association’s (2022) Moved to Action: Activating UNDRIP in Canadian Museums report. I will share about the team’s collaborative work with ancestral Indigenous communities to review, research, and develop best care practices for belongings held in trust; update digital data records; and determine which belongings and information may be shared publicly, in a way that uplifts and honours Indigenous intellectual sovereignty.

Further, I will connect this work to current provincial and federal arts, culture, and heritage sector policy updates. Improvements to provincial and federal granting agencies/opportunities that support Indigenous intellectual sovereignty within the sector will be suggested.

10:00 AM: Turning “One of the Swords Leading the Charge of Continuing Genocide and Colonialism”: Data Sovereignty and syilx Perspectives of Heritage and Commercial Archaeology
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Michael Elvidge - University of British Columbia, Okanagan
  • Nancy Bonneau - Westbank First Nation Archaeology Office
  • Neha Gupta - University of British Columbia, Okanagan

Westbank First Nation (WFN) is one of eight Okanagan Nation communities in British Columbia. The WFN maintains an archaeology office under the Intergovernmental Affairs department and the office combines the “study of the past with current syilx society to help build the syilx Title and Rights across the WFN Area of Responsibility”. This research uses an Indigenous Data Governance framework to untangle colonial relationships between syilx and settler archaeologists as part of syilx cultural revitalization. We examine how syilx communities are repurposing archaeology as a tool to assert sovereignty, thus shifting heritage and data management to assert their rights and control over heritage, which ensures a future for the next seven generations. Here, we present an ongoing collaborative community-based study that examines understandings of heritage, its management, and implications for commercial archaeology. Commercial archaeologists typically maintain consultative relationships with First Nation archaeology offices, yet few engage with First Nation community members to understand their perspectives on archaeology and heritage. Preliminary results suggest that commercial archaeologists and syilx counterparts have different views of archaeology and heritage, which, reflect their respective priorities. Through this study, we open conversation on how we can bring archaeology into alignment with Indigenous Data Governance principles.