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New B.C. museum policy highlights return of Indigenous remains, artifacts


VANCOUVER — Letters to Scotland sent by a woman from the small settlement of Victoria around 1850 gave Dianne Hinkley more insight into why the bones of her ancestors may be spread around the world.

One of the letters says that “skulls were all the rage” in the new community, Hinkley said.

“It was all the fashion that you had to have a skull on your mantel piece,” Hinkley recalls the letter saying.  

The woman’s letter said she found the remains on rock piles that were all over the place and that she “would try to get them a couple of skulls, so they can have them in their house for fashion as well,” Hinkley said.

Those rock piles were actually burial cairns and the pilfering is one of the many reasons why Hinkley has found Cowichan artifacts and remains from Russia to the United Kingdom and from Israel to South Africa.

That search has been helped with a repatriation grant from the Royal B.C. Museum, which recently changed its policies to no longer collect or study ancestral remains. 

The museum has also announced that anything it acquired from Indigenous Peoples during the anti-potlatch years, from 1885 to 1951, will be considered eligible for repatriation because it was obtained at a time of duress. 

During those years, the federal government banned potlatch ceremonies, which were important social events where valuable gifts were given to show generosity and status over rivals. The government saw the events as anti-Christian and a waste of personal property.

Lou-Ann Neel, the repatriation specialists for the Royal B.C. Museum, said by the time the ban was lifted, much Indigenous wealth had been lost.

“Our regalia was gone, our masks were gone, some of them were burnt by missionaries, some of them were just taken and confiscated. So you can’t hold a potlatch without these treasures,” said Neel, who is part of the Mamalilikulla and Kwagiulth people in Alert Bay, B.C.

Neel said the loss of their belongings started with the colonial belief that Indigenous people were endangered and dying out.

“That really sparked a collecting frenzy, that sent out people: anthropologists, military, adventurers or self-proclaimed pioneers. (They) just felt like they had permission because the general sense across Canada and the U.S. was that ‘Indians’ would soon been gone.”

Hinkley said her research shows that between 1870 and 1930 museums were popping up around the world and they needed something to display.

She said collectors from around the world would land in the villages and buy or take anything they could.

“Their bodies, the skeletal remains and all of that was sold to museums,” she said.

“There must have been essentially very little cultural materials left in those villages. They took everything, they took cedar woven maps that hung on the walls, they took knitting needles, everything, fish hooks, you name it, they collected it.”

Hinkley said the change in the museum’s policy is “huge” because it allows Indigenous people in the province to find more information about their artifacts.  She said some museums, especially those in the United Kingdom, refuse to even speak with them about the artifacts.

The Royal B.C. Museum distributed more than $580,000 in repatriation grants last year to First Nations, helping them begin the process of finding and acquiring their ancestors’ remains and artifacts. It has also written the Indigenous Repatriation Handbook to help as a guide. 

The museum has about 700 ancestral remains. Neel said most of them were handed over to the museum through development when roads or homes were under construction and the bones were unearthed.

Because the museum is no longer a repository for remains, she said they’ll be searching through the records to determine where the bones were found and will ask First Nations what they want to do with their ancestors’ remains.

“It’s the right thing to do and the right way to do it.”

The B.C. museum has about 15,000 Indigenous artifacts, and Neel said a portion of those would have been taken during the potlatch years. They are starting the task of looking at every object to determine how it came to the museum, she said.

Neel said Indigenous communities are excited about the prospect of having their ancestors and ancient treasures returned.

“There are obviously things in the collection that were purchased legitimately, there’s a paper trail for them and those things really do legitimately belong to the museum collection.

“What the committee did was take a close look and said really what we’re concerned about are the things that were not acquired in the best of times. Some communities were still very much under duress, even after the potlatch ban was dropped.”

For the Cowichan, Hinkley said the other challenge is they don’t have anywhere to bring their treasures home. But she said the repatriation negotiations tend to drag and that will give them time to get their museum ready.




Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press


151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot



VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.









Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar



A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”






Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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september, 2019

tue06augAll Daysun29sepHot Mess - Erin Boake featured at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery(All Day)

sun22sep2:00 pm4:00 pmVinyasa with a View2:00 pm - 4:00 pm MT Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, 120 College Circle Event Organized By: Lululemon Red Deer