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Repatriation

You can download the FNSCORA Repatriation Application Form.

As Alberta works towards a future of reconciliation and collaboration, the Royal Alberta Museum is committed to initiating new relationships, while maintaining existing friendships created over the years. This is especially significant when it comes to the meaningful relationships we have with Indigenous communities in Alberta. As we begin a new era in our new home, our Indigenous Studies team, who are caretakers of numerous materials including sacred ceremonial materials, has established a new department called Community Engagement.

Community Engagement seeks to engage and develop relationships with Indigenous communities whose sacred ceremonial materials are at the Royal Alberta Museum and Glenbow Museum. The primary aim of Community Engagement is to acknowledge the cultural protocols and the ceremonial needs of the sacred materials in the Government of Alberta collections. With much of the sacred ceremonial materials coming from the Indigenous communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, such as the Plains Cree and Blackfoot, Community Engagement attempts to allow Indigenous voices and representation lead our work in a respectful manner.

In addition to caring for sacred ceremonial materials, we manage the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act, or FNSCORA, developed for Repatriation.

In 2016, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs announced that Canada supported the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including Article 11 and 12.

Article 11

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
  2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

Article 12

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
  2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.

Currently, RAM upholds the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act, or FNSCORA, aimed to repatriate sacred ceremonial materials within the province of Alberta. However, the only regulation that enables the province's legal repatriation process is the Blackfoot First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Regulation (2004) that outlines a repatriation procedure for Blackfoot First Nations. This regulation was developed with members of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Kainai, Piikani and Siksika), and their cultural society representatives continue to advise museum staff on repatriation matters.

Additionally, RAM is working collaboratively with Indigenous communities and their elders to uphold the Calls to Action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Repatriation defined in FNSCORA is the transfer to a First Nation by the Crown of the Crown's title to a sacred ceremonial object, and the acceptance by the First Nation of that transfer.

The Act defines a "sacred ceremonial object" as an object that:

  1. Was used by a First Nation in the practice of sacred ceremonial traditions;
  2. Is in the possession and care of the Royal Alberta Museum or the Glenbow-Alberta Institute or on loan from one of those institutions to a First Nation, or is otherwise in the possession and care of the Crown, and;
  3. Is vital to the practice of the First Nation's sacred ceremonial traditions.

RAM is committed to reconnecting Indigenous peoples with their cultural objects, and in particular, facilitating access to sensitive sacred ceremonial materials. Requests to view sacred ceremonial materials in the Government of Alberta collections are determined on a case-by-case basis. Individuals requesting the opportunity to visit sacred materials must be accompanied by an elder(s). Many sacred materials belong to specific societies and come from various First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. We are committed to upholding their cultural significance and importance with respect and accountability.

If you wish to find out more about the process for visiting the RAM’s sacred ceremonial First Nations collections, please contact:

Natalie Charette
Acting Head of Community Engagement

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