Everything Returns to Earth

by nbernier_nguyen on Mai 4, 2017 - 8:24pm

In his article for the Edmonton Journal on First Nations artifacts, Doug Cuthand criticises the display of these artifacts and sacred relics in museums, how museum curators treat these objects and the inexact historical statements on museum displays. He begins his article with the criticism of a display on Chief Poundmaker in the British Museum, where there was a completely false statement on the individual. He proceeds to critique the British for their theft of various antiquities and sacred relics in the colonial era, such as the Elgin marbles, and the display of First Nations artifacts throughout Europe and America. From these stolen artifacts, he gives the example of the Iron Creek Meteorite and the G’psgolox pole, both revered relics stolen from their homeland. Cuthand feels that the spirituality and history of indigenous artifacts should be respected, which is rarely the case, and feels that these artifacts are rather treated like trophies of war representing the conquering of western civilization of the indigenous world. Throughout the article, Cuthand compares the view of museum curators regarding First Nation artifacts and the indigenous view of them. Museums see them as objects from the past that need to be preserved and cared for, on the opposite side, Cuthand explains that these objects have a spirituality to them and should be returned to the Earth since to indigenous culture, “life is a circle and everything eventually returns to the Earth”.

On the contrary to Cuthand, I do not feel that the exposition of First Nation relics in museums is a testament to the submission of one civilization to another, rather I believe these serve for educational purposes, a chance to look back at the past and be able to understand present day indigenous worldviews, or any type of worldview. However, to act as an educational element, facts and statements regarding these items and individuals should be exact, which was not the case with Chief Poundmaker’s exhibition in the British Museum. Although Cuthand does not explicitly state it, he believes stolen artifacts should be returned to their rightful communities. I, on the other hand, do not concur with his views. Certain relics should remain in the care of museums for their preservation as they act as a source of knowledge and an education medium to inform individuals on the past and present indigenous worldview. However, certain artifacts may be returned if the communities requested them back. With the artifacts in their hands, indigenous communities have the right to do what they deem appropriate with them, such as return them to the Earth. Nonetheless, I still believe they should negotiate with the museum to preserve the artifacts on their territory like it was done with the G’psgolox pole.

Work Cited: Cuthand, Douglas. “Revered First Nations artifacts belong with indigenous people; In Indian Country, life is seen as a circle and all things eventually return to Earth.” Edmonton Journal, Canadian Major Dailies, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.champlaincollege.qc.ca/ canadiannewsmajor/docview/1894530885/636FB9D8BF374D65PQ/1?accountid=44391