12.00  Control of Indigenous Archaeological Heritage in Ontario, Canada

11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

Few Indigenous Peoples have control over their heritage, despite international recognition that they have “the right to maintain, protect and develop” it in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), 2007. In Canada, archaeological heritage falls under provincial jurisdiction. In Ontario, the Ontario Heritage Act (R.S.O. 1990) regulates archaeology and licenced archaeologists are “deputized” legally to care for the archaeological materials and data for the public good. Over the last decade, in response to Supreme Court of Canada decisions, Indigenous peoples are regularly consulted and actively participate as monitors on archaeological projects in Ontario. However, they still lack the legal right to control or veto archaeological work, except in the situation of human burials. Archaeological heritage is rooted in the land and land is everything to Indigenous peoples. Indigenous control over archaeology will not happen until they regain more political control over their land from colonial states. Control of Indigenous lands in Ontario was legally ceded to the Crown in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century treaties, effectively denying Indigenous access to and control over their archaeological past buried in those lands. In the spirit of UNDRIP and to recognize Indigenous rights to archaeological heritage in Ontario, treaty and heritage legislation need to be revisited. The revision of laws affecting Indigenous rights to land and heritage, although mistakenly perceived as threatening to the state of Canada, needs to be in accordance with twenty-first century ethics and concepts of fairness. This paper will present the challenges and possible ways of providing Indigenous Peoples of Ontario control over their archaeological heritage, along with a call to the Canadian and Ontario governments to re-imagine and renegotiate fairer access to and control over Indigenous heritage. 

Wilfrid Laurier University

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