Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Premier Paul Quassa, then president of the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut.
May 25, 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of signing the Nunavut Agreement in 1993, the largest land claim settlement in Canadian history. Nunavut became Canada’s newest territory April 1, 1999. The legacy of colonialism and intergenerational trauma is strongly felt in Canada’s North. The Nunavut Agreement identified the “urgent [emphasis mine] need to establish facilities in the Nunavut Settlement Area for the conservation and management of a representative portion of the archaeological record” – with the archaeological record in the Agreement defined as objects and specimens “found in an archaeological site of archaeological, ethnological or historical importance, interest or significance and includes explorers’ documents.” A territorial heritage facility has yet to be built but the right to such facilities and programs, and the importance of them, has been asserted repeatedly since – at the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs (1996), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015), in the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019), and most recently in Canada’s commitment to implement UNDRIP (2021).
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action
Calls to Action that relate specifically to museums and archives include #67 which required the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) to review museum policies and practices to determine the level of compliance with UNDRIP. This was the first serious attention the CMA has paid to Indigenous heritage since the CMA/Assembly of First Nations Task Force Report Turning the Page: Forging New Partnerships between Museums and First People which was considered ‘game changing’ when it was released in 1994. However, the CMA’s response to Call #67, Moved to Action: Activating UNDRIP in Canadian Museums, is much stronger.
But Calls don’t have to specifically mention museums or archives to be supported by museums and archives, such as 10iii to develop culturally appropriate curricula materials; 12 culturally appropriate early childhood education programs; 14iii language revitalization and preservation; 21 mental health programming through Indigenous cultural practices; 27 skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism; 31 programming that addresses underlying causes of offending; 33 culturally appropriate maternity programs to reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); 57 skill-based training for public servants on Indigenous history; 62ii educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms; 63i learning resources on Indigenous Peoples in Canadian history and the history and legacy of residential schools; 80 an annual event on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities; and 84 Inuit programming for use in other media.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Support for the NIHC will demonstrate the federal and territorial governments’ commitment to implementing UNDRIP. Articles 11, 12, 13 and 31 are very specific in outlining rights related to Indigenous heritage. Article 11 includes the right to practise and revitalize cultural traditions and customs, to protect and develop past, present and future manifestations of their culture, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature; and mechanisms, including restitution of cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.
Article 12 addresses the right to practise, develop and teach spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; to protect, and have access in privacy to religious and cultural sites; the use of ceremonial objects; and repatriation of human remains and ceremonial objects.
Article 13 refers to the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
Article 31 asserts the right to control, protect and develop cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
Other articles also have implications for Inuit heritage, including Article 3, cultural development; Article 5, strengthen cultural institutions and participation; Article 8, redress for dispossession; Article 13, language; Article 15, dignity of public information; Article 18, participate in decision making; Article 24 knowledge/traditional plants; Article 25, spiritual relationships to the land and water; Article 28, redress for confiscated resources; and Article 29, protection and conservation of resources.
IHT Director of Planning Catherine C. Cole was one of the speakers on a panel on “UNDRIP and Indigenous Heritage: Pathways to Implementation” at the National Trust for Canada’s conference in Toronto in October 2022.