UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding and resolving cultural heritage repatriation disputes between indigenous peoples and museums Jessiman, Stacey Rae


Disputes between Indigenous peoples and Western museums over repatriation of cultural heritage involve numerous complex issues -- legal, ethical, historical, cultural, spiritual, political and economic, among others – that necessitate a particularly thoughtful approach to resolving such disputes. Resolution of such disputes by negotiation or other alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) processes should not involve simply finding quick, theoretically “win-win” solutions such as replicas or loans. Because these disputes often involve complex issues such as traumatic colonial injustices and profound differences in cultural values and dispute resolution paradigms, the dispute resolution process must involve a period of exploration and acknowledgement of such issues and differences by the parties, which I term “Relationship Building”, as a necessary precursor to any stage of problem-solving. By analysing the negotiations between various Western museums and the Kwakwaka’wakw and Haisla First Nations of British Columbia, Canada over the repatriation of cultural objects removed from their traditional territories by colonial forces in the early 20th century, this thesis seeks to demonstrate how engaging in a stage of Relationship Building early in the negotiation process is key to ensuring the parties understand their dispute holistically and experience a constructive, not destructive, process and outcome.

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