UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Kulhulmcilh and iixsalh : our land and medicine : creating a Nuxalk database of museum collections Leischner, Emily Jean


Museum staff have recently embraced digital technologies as an avenue for providing sustainable access to the cultural heritage of First Nations and descendent communities. While museums, universities and partnering institutions are increasingly collaborating on digital initiatives with Indigenous communities, the resulting projects necessarily involve compromise between parties working with often different goals, publics, and epistemologies. Understanding and evaluating the meaning, value, and success of projects that Indigenous peoples control at all levels is essential to improving future collaborative projects involving First Nations material culture, and to prioritizing Indigneous perspectives at all levels of museum work. In this thesis I examine the process of creating a digitized ethnographic database of museum objects, led by the Ancestral Governance Office of the Nuxalk First Nation in Bella Coola, British Columbia. This Nuxalk-directed database shows how vital Nuxalk culture heritage is to their land and sovereignty, and highlights the importance of the process of creating this database over the final digital product. It 1) challenges assumptions around the invisibility of certain value systems within museum collections databases, 2) emphasizes the future wellbeing of the next generation of Nuxalk people as an important motivation for this work, and 3) calls for more support for Indigenous-controlled projects like this one from the government and institutions caring for Indigenous heritage.

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