Reclaiming the Past: Community-Led Archaeology and Collections Management

Friday, May 4, 2018 - 1:30pm to 6:30pm
Terrace West
This session presents an opportunity for community members and researchers to share stories of collaboration and community-led projects. As the topic of truth and reconciliation within archaeology becomes increasingly important, so too does the need for respectful, open communication and strategies to transition the discussion into actions. Transparency within archaeology as well as in museums, that house ancestors and material culture of Indigenous communities, is essential in developing pragmatic, culturally sensitive methods and policies. That viewpoint will allow the opportunity for archaeologists and Indigenous communities to move forward together. Topics of discussion may include: repatriation; the accessibility of museum collections to Indigenous communities; reconciliation through collections and exhibit management; and the digitization, sharing, as well as returning of knowledge about communities to them. Stories concerning the evolution of narrative, examples of partnerships and community-directed projects in which archaeologists act as facilitators, in addition to how to begin and maintain these important conversations are welcomed. If time allows, this session will be followed by a moderated round-table discussion enabling the opportunity to share ideas generated during the session.
  • Kayleigh Speirs, Rainy River First Nations
  • Tasha Hodgson, Rainy River First Nations
01:30 PM: Opening Ceremony and Words from Al Hunter
  • Al Hunter - Rainy River First Nations
Al Hunter is an Elder and former Chief of Rainy River First Nations. He is an award-winning poet and has extensive experience teaching in both academic and community settings, as well as with the negotiation of land claims. As one of the participants in David Arthur’s archaeological surveys at the Manitou Mounds, Al provides a unique perspective of the relationship between Indigenous communities and archaeology. Further, as the original voice in the on-going repatriation efforts the community is currently involved in, he has been witness to the process from the very beginning. Al will be opening the session, and speaking on his experiences with archaeology, repatriation, and collaboration.
01:50 PM: Ando Giiwè Idoo Daa: Bringing Home the Ancestors
  • Kayleigh Speirs - Rainy River First Nations
  • Willie McGinnis - Rainy River First Nations Council Member
  • Gary Medicine - Rainy River First Nations Council Member
  • Shawn Brown - Rainy River First Nations Council Member
  • Tasha Hodgson - Rainy River First Nations
Excavations in the 1950’s-1970’s saw the removal of artifacts and Ancestors from burial mounds located on the traditional territory of the Rainy River First Nations (RRFN). For thousands of years, the people of RRFN have acted as caretakers of Manidoo ziibii or Spirit River (Rainy River) and the people who rest along its shores. It is through this position as stewards that the decision was made in 2016 to locate, document, and where appropriate, reclaim artifacts, culturally significant items, and Ancestors that have become dispersed across North America. The repatriation will see the return of close to 4000 artifacts and over 30 Ancestors from burial mounds in the region, including those from Hungry Hall, which are currently located at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). This discussion will focus on the challenges faced by the community as well as the ROM in preparing for this return. It will additionally highlight the collaborative nature of this project, including an anticipated reburial in 2018, as well as a community-led exhibit and book that will serve as a re-telling of the history of the mounds, their excavations, and the repatriation process from the perspective of RRFN.
02:10 PM: Greater than the sum of its parts: on the importance of Indigenous-led museum research and repatriation
  • Craig Cipolla - Royal Ontario Museum
In this paper I frame my approach to collaborative Indigenous museum research—both as it relates to my part in a specific collaborative repatriation research project led by the Rainy River First Nations and to my general responsibilities as Curator of North American Archaeology at the Royal Ontario Museum. I outline the ways in which my professional development, work history, and identity as a non-Indigenous settler colonist shape my approach to Indigenous-led research and repatriation in a museum setting. I highlight issues of communication, transparency, and responsibility as they relate to my main goal as a museum professional and practicing archaeologist: to help build better archaeologies, anthropologies, and museums that respect Indigenous interests, sensibilities, and needs while recognizing the ongoing impacts and inequalities of settler colonialism.
02:30 PM: The Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Repatriation Endeavors in Saskatchewan
  • Evelyn  Siegfried - Government of Saskatchewan
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum has existed since 1906 and has been involved in archaeological and ethological collection care for decades, long before the Heritage Property Act (1980). Both the archaeology collection and the ethnology collection have been involved in repatriation issues and efforts since the latter 1980’s to the present. Policies have been written and implemented for human remains and sacred and ceremonial objects. This has all been done without legislation. Policies are easier to amend and revise as needed. These endeavors are not well-known, especially within the Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. This talk will provide a brief review of the history and results of the policy initiatives and the current state of the collections, including potential changes that may be happening in the future.
02:50 PM: We are Not All Treaty People Yet: Renewing Treaty Relationships at the Manitoba Museum
  • Maureen Matthews - Manitoba Museum
This paper, like the new We are All Treaty People exhibit we refer to, is the product of a collaborative relationship between the Manitoba Museum’s Curator of Cultural Anthropology, Dr. Maureen Matthews, three Commissioners of the Manitoba Treaty Relations Commission, Dennis Whitebird, Jamie Wilson, and Loretta Ross, their excellent staff and very importantly with Dr. Harry Bone, Chair of the Elders Council of the Treaty Relations Commission and the Association of Manitoba Chiefs and the members of the Elders Council. This paper  explains how Treaty related objects and their indigenous histories, political connections and social realms, enabled the creation of a First Nations centered exhibit about the numbered Treaties at the Manitoba Museum that in spirit and conception, invokes the respectful relationship aboriginal Treaty negotiators envisaged.  A history of nasty betrayal followed the negotiation of the Treaties and people who visit the museum often ask why, given these bitter memories, First Nations people wish to commemorate Treaties which have not achieved their promise.  The Elders answer that signing the Treaties was not the end of negotiations but the start of an ongoing relationship based on principles of sharing.  They argue that as long as a respectful relationship can be imagined, there is reason to believe that we will return to the mutually beneficial conversation initiated by First Nations leaders and representatives of the Crown in the late 19th century.
03:10 PM: Archives, oral history and material record: weaving a narrative of local history
  • Susan Lofthouse - Avataq Cultural Institute
For many descendent communities, a wealth of information on local histories is hidden in archival documents and grey literature. The extraction of this information can be difficult, particularly when dealing with documents that are not only difficult to locate but also often hand-written – even harder to decipher if the language is not the mother tongue of the reader. This is where academic methods of research can facilitate access to that information. This paper will present research relating to early-mid 20th century cemeteries in Nunavik. The two examples given are located within zones earmarked as provincial parks by the Nunavik Parks division of the Kativik Regional Government. As the parks are naturally created in areas that contain many appealing camping and hunting spots, they unsurprisingly contain lengthy occupation histories. Both cemeteries are located near trading posts: one dates to the 1920s/1930s, the other to the 1950s. The creation of new parks in Nunavik involves extensive archaeological surveys and reconstruction of local histories relevant to the adjacent communities. The cemeteries themselves are old enough to be considered archaeological in nature. The investigation of archival documents, combined with oral histories and modern interviews with surviving elders, allowed the identification of individuals who were buried there. While some names had survived in the memories, the documentation of this information allows it to remain preserved for posterity.
03:50 PM: Historical Designation of Cultural Landscapes through Oral History and Archaeology: First Nations Sturgeon Conservation and Use on the Rainy River
  • David Mather - Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office
On the Rainy River at the international boundary between northwest Ontario and Minnesota, Manitou Rapids and Long Sault Rapids are culturally and ecologically important spawning grounds for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) and other fish. Manitou Rapids is the location of the Rainy River First Nations community and sturgeon hatchery, and they own and operate the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre at Long Sault Rapids. The latter area is a National Historic Site featuring the Manitou Mounds, including the largest ancient earthwork in Canada. In recognition of their cultural and historical significance, the portions of both rapids south of the international boundary are being considered for historical designation in the United States, through nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The cultural significance of the rapids is connected to the presence of sturgeon, as documented through interviews with elders from Rainy River First Nations, and Ojibwe communities in northern Minnesota. Archaeological sites provide support and context, including rock art, earthworks and ancient fishing camps containing sturgeon bone at the rapids. These places are connected to other historically designated sites on the Rainy River, including the Grand Mound and McKinstry Mounds in Minnesota. Manitou Rapids and Long Sault Rapids are the centers of significant cultural landscapes that include geological and hydrological features, archaeological sites, historical vegetation, and the sturgeon themselves.
04:10 PM: From the Land of Plenty – Documenting Sites and Collections With and For the Community
  • Belinda Riehl-Fitzsimmons - Saskatchewan Archaeological Society
Community members are valuable sources of information about collections, sites and protecting the past.  Efforts to formalize hand-drawn maps and notes of a long-time prairie “explorer”, and catalogue his extensive archaeological collection, became critical for members of a small Saskatchewan community museum after his passing in 2011.  This paper details how readily people can come together to share their passion and commitment to conserve and protect a landscape and its heritage resources which have provided sustenance for thousands of years.
04:30 PM: Museums & Indigenous Collections
  • Cathy  McGirr - Museum & Cultural Services, Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre
  • Doran Ritchie - Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Environment Office
This presentation will focus on Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre’s relationship with our First Nations communities in Bruce County and more specifically the role of the Museum as it relates to being the repository for First Nations archaeological collections. Examples of recent collections related transfers and studies working with all parties, Museum, First Nations and Archaeologists will be examined.
04:50 PM: Collaborative Collections Management at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung
  • Tasha Hodgson - Rainy River First Nations
  • Christie Hunter - Rainy River First Nations
  • Kayleigh Speirs - Rainy River First Nations
Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, the Place of the Long Rapids, is a historically significant meeting place along the banks of the Rainy River and the location of the largest concentration of known burial mounds in North America. The centre currently houses approximately 10,000 artifacts excavated in the 1970s from village sites associated with these mounds, most of which have not been extensively examined since that time. The current state of the centre’s collections area is not up to industry standards, and the resulting initiatives to inventory, upgrade, develop, and disseminate knowledge of the collection will be the focus of this discussion. Highlights will include facility upgrades based on an assessment from the Canadian Conservation Institute and the application of culturally appropriate and engaging methods. Specific topics include cataloguing procedures and the incorporation of community protocols and belief systems, digitization and increased accessibility, site-specific content development, and the sharing of knowledge and narrative to community members.