Moquina, the chief of the Moo-à-chaht or Nootka tribe... brought out his mask and paraphernalia used at potlatches, and made a long speech, to the effect that ... it was very hard to ask them to give up a custom which was intermixed with all their thoughts and feelings,... being an occasion of amusement and rejoicing, and had been handed down to them by their ancestors....*

WELCOME to the website for the "Protection and Repatriation of First Nation Cultural Heritage" research project. This project is the result of a collaboration between an international team of scholars in law and anthropology and First Nation partners in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. It has four main objectives:
(1) to disseminate information about the existing legal regime;
(2) to facilitate respect for, and understanding of, First Nations concepts of property and law;
(3) to assist First Nation community partners collect and develop archival and educational resources; and
(4) to critically analyse domestic federal and provincial legislation to provide recommendations for reform.

The research program was completed on July 26, 2006. Two books are currently under review by UBC Press (Vancouver).

Introductions to each book explaining their content can be found under the Research Papers link. The Introduction to volume one provides a more detailed discussion of project methodology.

Brief Project Description

 The website is  designed to  provide you with  updated  information about  the progress of the project and information that will help those working on repatriation and protection issues.

Brief Project Description

The last decade has witnessed increased demand by indigenous peoples around the world for ownership, protection and repatriation of their cultural heritage including moveable objects, sacred sites and associated intellectual property. In Canada these issues have received some attention in modern land claim agreements and treaties, private negotiations, and recently litigation and community specific repatriation legislation. However, ownership, protection and trade of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Canada is primarily governed by dated federal, territorial and provincial legislation which fails to reflect First Nation laws and priorities and developments in Canadian Aboriginal rights law and international law. Unlike other jurisdictions that have indigenous populations and share Canada's colonial legal history, little research and consultation has been conducted to ascertain First Nation concepts of cultural heritage and related property laws, the extent to which these concepts and laws can be partnered and respected within Canadian law, and the nature of law reform required to respect Canadian laws on the inherent rights of Aboriginal peoples.

This research program, lead by Professor Bell ( University of Alberta) and Professor Paterson ( U.B.C. Law) will examine Canadian legislation affecting ownership, protection and control of First Nation cultural heritage and develop strategies for reform. The research has four primary objectives: to disseminate information about the existing legal regime; to facilitate respect for, and understanding of, First Nations concepts of property and laws affecting cultural heritage; to assist First Nation community partners collect and develop archival and educational resources on local indigenous laws and cultural heritage; and to critically analyse domestic law and provide recommendations for reform within and outside of the Western legal framework. Research will be informed by case studies designed in collaboration with First Nation partners featuring First Nation concepts of property, laws and heritage protection priorities; Canadian Aboriginal rights and property law; international laws and treaties on human rights, cultural property, intellectual property and the rights of indigenous peoples; and reform initiatives in jurisdictions with similar legal obligations such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

This research is unique because it places First Nation and Canadian laws and concepts of property on equal footing in legal research and law reform activity. It will explore the relationship of private property rationale and concepts of national heritage informing current legislation to the survival of distinct Aboriginal cultures. It will also be the first comprehensive review of domestic cultural heritage legislation. Participation by First Nation partners in B.C. and Alberta and First Nation scholars at all levels of the research program ensures that unique indigenous approaches to legal theory and analysis will be incorporated.

Given the scope of the research and consultation, published research outcomes are not anticipated for three to five years. However, case study reports, preliminary research reports, bibliographies and other information generated from the project will be posted on the project website throughout the duration of the project. In the early years equally important outcomes will be the development of community archival material.

 News and Events
Case Studies &
Community Partners
 Workshop Proceedings
 Research Partners
 Canadian Legislation
 Internet Resources
 Research Papers

*HARRY GUILLOD,Indian Agent.
10th July, 1885.

This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The colour photographs on this website were generously provided by the U'mista Cultural Society.