The repatriation of “The Sechelt image,” one of Canada’s best known prehistoric sculptures, to B.C.’s Sechelt Band, and a Maori cloak to New Zealand’s Wairoa Museum, was made possible by The Museum of Vancouver (MOV)’s new repatriation program and the efforts of a team from UBC. Professor of anthropology and chair of MOV’s collections committee Bruce Miller and UBC graduate students Emily Birky, Chris Arnett and Peter Mechant have been instrumental to the new program’s creation and success. Birky, under Miller’s supervision, worked on the historical and anthropological information of the Sechelt Image to prepare the report sent to the museum board and to City Council to gain approval for the repatriation.
“The trend among progressive museums around the globe is to improve their relationships with First Nations and to better engage and reflect the communities they serve. For First Nations, we are talking about the return of massively important cultural artifacts,” says Miller, who studies indigenous peoples, and their relationship with the state, including governments, the courts and museums.
“Many First Peoples see artifacts as living entities, so seeing them hidden away in the back room of a museum can cause great pain,” he said, noting that bands are more willing to donate pieces, request technical advice or partner with museums with repatriation programs.
For more on the Sechelt Image repatriation, visit http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/prehistoric-sculpture-returned-to-sechelt-band/article1760005/