REPATRIATIONS FROM PRIVATE CITIZENS
In the early 1990’s the RCMP were called in to assist the Haida in
locating and returning 44 of our ancestors who were stolen from their graves in the 1970’s and 80’s by an unethical anthropologist. Other
than this instance, repatriation from private citizens has been a very positive experience. We have had three voluntary repatriations of ancestral remains from private citizens over the past 10 years. The ancestors originated from Skedans, Cumshewa and House Island. In
each case, the private citizen wound up with human remains in their home without realizing how this might affect the Haida. Once they learned how deeply connected we are to our ancestors, the people wanted to return our ancestors’ remains back home.
We are so happy when private citizens contact us to bring home
our ancestors! We encourage others to do the same. We keep
names anonymous unless otherwise specified, and approach these repatriations just like we do with museums we want the
experience to be positive and to build relationships. Repatriation
is based on mutual respect and understanding.
Many times over the years, and still today, our ancestors graves
become disturbed and exposed by natural forces of nature or by
industrial development. In the past, it was standard practice for well-intentioned people to contact the RCMP who would then remove our ancestors’ remains and send them to an archaeology lab. We have repatriated eight ancestors that have been turned into the RCMP
or the BC Archaeology branch.
Today, a Protocol for the Discovery of Human Remains prevents
the removal of ancestral remains exposed by natural forces
or industrial development.
While the Haida Repatriation Committee has been actively repatriating since the mid 1990’s, the Haida community has been working on repatriation initiatives for thirty years. Our nation has received
individual pieces and entire collections over the years from private individuals, most recently from the Reif and Fitzgerald families. The Haida Gwaii Museum opened in 1976, and acts as custodian for our treasures, keeping them safe and accessible for the inspiration of
today’s and future generations.