British Columbia

Huu-ay-aht First Nations begin process of reclaiming cultural artifacts from Royal B.C. Museum

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations are beginning the process of reclaiming some of their cultural artifacts from the Royal B.C. Museum following the award of a repatriation grant.

'This is about bringing back a little bit of our history, one piece at a time,' Huu-ay-aht councillor says

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations received a $35,000 grant in order to fund repatriation research and activities in May. (Huu-ay-aht Nation)

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations are beginning the process of reclaiming some of their cultural artifacts from the Royal B.C. Museum following the award of a repatriation grant.

In May, the Huu-ay-aht received $35,000 in order to fund repatriation research and activities.

The grant is being used to identify and catalogue the items the nation wants repatriated from the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM), which will join the items previously returned to the nation from the museum in 2016.

"Our history was extracted from us, and this is about bringing back a little bit of our history, one piece at a time, knowing that our treasures are scattered all over the world," Huu-ay-aht Coun. Edward R. Johnson said in a statement. 

"We are just scratching the surface of reconciliation by bringing some of our treasures home," he said.

Head Hereditary Chief ƛiišin (Derek Peters) says the grant will help the Huu-ay-aht community reconnect with the treasures that have long been housed in the museum. 

Huu-ay-aht First Nations head hereditary chief Derek Peters speaks in front of artwork on display at the Huu-ay-aht First Nations Assembly. (Heather Thomson/Huu-ay-aht First Nation)

"It's bringing us closer and closer to having all of those artifacts and treasures brought back to our homeland," Peters told host Katherine Marlow in CBC's All Points West

Peters says they are relying a lot on elders and experts to help them identify artifacts. 

"It's a big task. From identifying them to moving them to our community and having that facility and infrastructure," Peters said.

First step in true reconciliation

Peters says positive relationships have been built between the Huu-ay-aht and the RBCM, which he says has been helpful through the entire process. 

Earlier this spring, the B.C. Museum Association called on institutions across Canada to repatriate ancestral remains and burial items to their home communities.

"We wouldn't be able to be where we are without them being co-operative. And this is the first true step toward reconciliation," Peters said.

The Huu-ay-aht is currently in the early stages in constructing a permanent home for the artifacts. Peters says they hope to be able to welcome people to the new centre later this year. 

When you enter the Royal BC Museum, you are greeted by two "welcome figures" carved out of cedar. These two figures, plus many more artifacts, have been part of the RBCM collection for decades. But now, many of those artifacts could be returned to the homelands of the Huu-ay-aht, to be housed in a new cultural centre in Anacla. Recently, the nation was given a grant to help identify items to bring home. ƛiišin (Derek Peters), the Head Hereditary Chief for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, spoke with Kathryn Marlow. 6:58

With files from All Points West

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