Wolastoqey chiefs want Aboriginal artifacts back from New Brunswick Museum

FREDERICTON – The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick want the return of Aboriginal artifacts from the New Brunswick Museum.

In a statement on Thursday, the chiefs called on Indigenous Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn to begin the process of returning unspecified items.

The museum recently announced the closure of its exhibition space in Market Square in Saint John and said artifacts were in storage.

Wolastoqey chiefs say they are concerned about what the closure means for the fate of objects that have significant cultural value, adding that it is time they were returned to their “rightful owners”.

“The thought that our culture, our history languishes in a basement, draped in bubble wrap, is unbearable,” wrote Chief Ross Perley of the Neqotkuk First Nation. “We have a responsibility to our past and to our future generations to act.”

In a statement Thursday evening, the Ministry of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said they had received the chiefs’ request and that a response would be communicated to them in due course.

“The renewal of facilities and exhibits is a crucial phase in every institution’s operational cycle, and the New Brunswick Museum is entering this phase,” the statement said. “Currently, museum staff are working to prepare the collections for any moves required as part of this project. None of the Aboriginal artifacts held at the museum have been packed or moved.

The Premier announced a commitment to the New Brunswick Museum during his recent State of the Province address. Details have yet to be announced.

Chiefs say members of their community have had discussions going back years with the province regarding the repatriation of artifacts, including human remains, from repositories in New Brunswick, other provinces and around the world. . They say discussions stalled more than a year ago when they were told the provincial government was conducting an internal review of First Nations initiatives.

The government statement indicates that Minister Dunn and Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Tammy Scott-Wallace fully support the resumption of the Bilateral Archeology Table, as requested by the Wolastoqey Chiefs.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 14, 2022.

James C. Tibbs