First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 55

was made in an effort to downsize the museum’s sprawling collections and free up storage space. It has not yet been real- ized because the Museum of Costa Rica has to raise considerable funds to provide for shipping. If this information is freely avail- able online, much more can certainly be gained through rigorous research and interviewing the curators directly involved in individual cases themselves. In fact, there are many more partnerships between museums and tribal communi- ties than recent protests would lead one to believe. To date, the United States is the only nation in the world to have federal legis- lation mandating repatriation. Though statistics reflect progress, the law is not without its drawbacks. Federally unrec- ognized tribes cannot make claims for remains or items that may be theirs; First Nations in Canada cannot make claims (the border divided many tribes); and the US law does not apply to international collections. Federal legislation provides funding for provenance research, transfer, and proper storage of fragile items. Last year, the Canadian House of Commons debated the Indigenous Human Remains and Cultural Property Repatriation Act (Bill C-391), introduced by MP Bill Casey. However, repatriation does happen even in the absence of federal legislation. Many museums have been building relationships with tribal communities for decades and, as research institutions, are self-driven to conduct provenance research. Some museum professionals believe entering into voluntary partner- ships sets a more positive tone than a mandate from the government. Blackfoot communities in Canada began repa- triating sacred bundles in the 1970s. 7 Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta, has worked extensively with local Indigenous tribes not only to repatriate sacred objects but also to create a permanent exhibition and public programming on Blackfoot culture, and to act as an appropriate repository for sacred objects that cannot be held elsewhere. In 2016 British Columbia and its Royal Museum began offering repatri- ation grants to First Nations, and the Huu-ay-aht received 17 items as part of an agreement that will eventually return 51 objects to the tribe. This is a small part of the Royal BC Museum’s response to Canada’s 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, specifically its 94 “Calls to Action.” 8 The TRC calls on Canadian institutions to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) adopted in 2007. Article 12, section 2 of this document proclaims, “States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatri- ation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.” 9 Though progress is slow, every initiative and collaboration contributes to a positive outlook for the years ahead. Since 2017 the Royal BC Museum has hired two repatriation specialists focused solely on the return of stolen items. In 2000 the Alberta legisla- ture passed the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act (FNSCORA), becoming the only Canadian province to give First Nations 6. Kate Taylor, “Museum Wants to Return Objects, but There’s a Hitch,” The New York Times (December 31, 2010), web. 7. Gerald T. Conaty, We Are Coming Home: Repatriation and the Restoration of Blackfoot Cultural Confidence (Alberta: Athabasca University Press, 2015), 177. 8. Raymond Frogner, archivist, “Royal BC Museum and Archives Official Response Regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” Royal BC Museum (last updated August 24, 2016), 2, web. 9. “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc. A/RES/47/1 (2007),” University of Minnesota: Human Rights Library (September 7, 2007), art. XII, § 2, web. SPRING 2019 | 53