Chiefs call for return of Indigenous artifacts destined for storage by N.B. Museum

·2 min read
The New Brunswick Museum in Saint John has housed its collections at the Douglas Avenue location since the 1930s. (Deborah Irvine Anderson - image credit)
The New Brunswick Museum in Saint John has housed its collections at the Douglas Avenue location since the 1930s. (Deborah Irvine Anderson - image credit)

The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick are calling on the New Brunswick Museum to return Indigenous artifacts destined to be placed in storage following the announcement of the museum's temporary closure.

The chiefs are calling on Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn to "kick start" the process of having the artifacts returned to their home communities or nations over concern they will get damaged in the packing process.

"The Wolastoqey chiefs believe now is the perfect time to once again open the dialogue about reappropriating artifacts that belong to the Indigenous peoples of this land," the chiefs said in a release.

They said the artifacts in question hold significant cultural value for Indigenous people in the region.

The New Brunswick Museum announced last month it would package hundreds of thousands of artifacts previously displayed in the Saint John museum to prepare for its move to a new location.

There were leaks, mould and a lack of storage space at the Market Square and Douglas Avenue locations, which ultimately prompted the move even before finding the artifacts a new home.

The New Brunswick government revoked funding put in place for a new museum facility in 2018, leaving the fate of the museum's next location in limbo.

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC
Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

Chief George Ginnish of Eel Ground First Nation said the Wolastoqey Nation is worried about the artifacts.

"We are aware and very concerned with our artifacts being placed in "storage" and also want them returned to their home communities," Ginnish said in an email to CBC News.

"We require proper facilities for safekeeping and display and will be requesting such. We are also looking at alternative proper storage sites until our facility/facilities can be designed and constructed."

In a joint statement to CBC News, the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs said the artifacts have yet to be stored or moved.

The departments acknowledged the request made by the chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation and said they are preparing an official response.

"While the project's scope is large and, therefore, many details are left to be revealed, it is important that all people of our province understand the stories of New Brunswickers will be shared in even more meaningful ways as the project develops," the departments said in an emailed statement.

The New Brunswick Museum declined a request for an interview.

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