Indigenous Collections and Repatriation Stories

A word from our team…

Repatriation is the return of First Nations ancestral belongings to their community of origin to be interpreted in context by their descendants. Cultural objects were often taken from villages by early explorers, collectors, scientists, and everyday settlers in a time of great duress. Those harmful impacts continue today.

Throughout the years, Indigenous stories have primarily been told from a colonial perspective. As an institution, we cannot change what happened historically, but we have a responsibility to challenge the biased narrative that has dominated systemic discrimination and injustice across many sectors — including, and perhaps especially, museums.

These repatriation stories reflect the experiences and perspectives of peoples who have been connected to their territorial lands and waters for more than 15,000 years. The impact each act of repatriation is wide spread, often connecting to important evolving initiatives, including revitalizing languages, laws, governance, spirituality, food sovereignty, art, ceremonies, and cultural practices. Each act of repatriation is distinct and far more meaningful than just returning objects.

As public servants, we have a moral obligation to ensure stories are told accurately and recognize the power imbalances that continue to exist today. Hearing and acknowledging diverse points of view allows for a fuller contemporary understanding of our shared history to create a better shared future for our children.

To connect with Indigenous Collections and Repatriation at RBCM, please email indigenous@royalbcmuseum.bc.ca

Repatriation Stories

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