Thursday, September 20, 2007

Northwest Native First Nations Artifacts Controversy

The Canadian Museum of Civilization near Ottawa, Canada is preparing a $6,000,000 exhibit called 'Treasures of the Tsimshian'. The Tsimshian are one of the major Northwest Native tribes. The Northwest Native First Nations artifacts include ceremonial masks, hats, bowls, and baskets purchased at an auction from the heirs of Scottish missionary, Robert J. Dundas.

However, many Tsimshian consider these artifacts that Dundas collected in 1863 as stolen goods. Tsimshian First Nations art weaver William White argues that the artifacts should be returned to their original communities instead of being displayed in museums. White says his ancestors were treated "unjustly" and were pressured to give away items without payment. He claims that his ancestors were told that they must give them up to become 'proper' Christians.

Perhaps the Museum of Civilization will be willing to negotiate with the Tsimshian First Nation on this matter.

For contemporary Northwest Native First Nations art, see the Free Spirit Gallery website.

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