The IHC strives to be a sustainable, respected and trusted Indigenous-led organization dedicated to Indigenous cultural heritage in all forms. IHC envisions healthy and vibrant Indigenous communities through full recognition, inclusion, support and respect for cultural heritage.
Why the IHC Matters – A Message from Karen Aird, President
For the past 23 years I have been fortunate to work in the heritage field, first as an archaeologist and more recently as a cultural heritage strategist. Most of my work has been with my own people in the Treaty 8 territory of BC, where I am a member of Saulteau First Nations through my mother Marlene Cameron/Desjarlais. I have also worked with the Gitxsan, Nlaka’pamux and Secwepemc in central British Columbia. I have watched the heritage field evolve over the last few decades in good ways but have been dismayed by the number of challenges related to the protection of intangible and tangible Indigenous cultural heritage that remain.
For example, in British Columbia any heritage object pre-dating 1846 is provided limited protection under the Heritage Conservation Act as a prehistoric or archaeological object. Frequently, ‘protection’ is only offered through the issuing of a permit to remove the object, not through the conservation of the object in-situ and certainly not by protecting the land itself. .
When asked to be an expert witness on behalf of Treaty 8 First Nations during the Site C Dam Environmental Panel hearings three years ago, I expressed concerns about the impact of the project on Treaty rights and heritage. The joint Federal and Provincial panel echoed the concerns, but the BC government approved the project. In addition to impacts to burial sites, traditional use sites, and intangible heritage values, over 300 archaeological sites are being destroyed by Site C proving once again that there are big gaps in legislation and processes that should protect Indigenous heritage.
After years of failing to advance Indigenous cultural heritage issues within conventional organizations and processes, it became apparent that a new approach was needed. Together with the first directors of the IHC, I agreed that it was time to set up a separate organization dedicated to Indigenous heritage.
The IHC is the only Canada-wide, inclusive (First Nations, Metis, and Inuit), not-for-profit organization dedicated to the work of advancing the identification, management, ownership and protection of Indigenous cultural heritage. The IHC describes Indigenous cultural heritage as ideas, objects, artistic expressions, practices, languages, knowledge and places that are valued because they are culturally necessary and meaningful, connected to shared memory, or linked to collective identity and life. The IHC’s concept of “heritage” is rooted in Indigenous realities rather than in standard approaches and divisions between types of heritage. Through multiple channels for dialogue and learning, the IHC hopes to serve as a trusted and inclusive organization that shares information, ideas and issues related to Indigenous cultural places, landscapes, narratives, languages, practices, traditional arts, legal traditions, protocols and collections. It aims to transform expectations about cultural heritage in Canada by making Indigenous views heard and addressed in all related issues and decisions.
This work is another real step toward meeting and fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and acknowledgements of the importance of Indigenous heritage and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states, among other articles related to Indigenous knowledge, culture, lands and language:
Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
Article 31 (1): Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
Karen Aird, President
Karen Aird is a member of Saulteau First Nations in Treaty No. 8 territory in BC. For almost 20 years, she has worked on projects that integrate stories, legal traditions and intangible and tangible elements into Indigenous cultural heritage planning. She has worked extensively with the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society and the Treaty 8 Coordinating Lands Office (Nun Wadee Society). She is currently the project lead for the T’Kemlups te Secwepemc Cultural Heritage Study.
Catherine Bell is a Professor of Law at the University of Alberta specialising in Indigenous legal issues, cultural heritage law and interdisciplinary collaborative legal research. She has been a visiting professor and scholar at various national and international universities and law programs including the Program of Legal Studies for Native People (University of Saskatchewan), the Akitsiraq Law School (with the University of Victoria), Nunavut Law Program (with the University of Saskatchewan), and Banff Center for Management Aboriginal Leadership and Self-Government Program.
Professor Bell is published widely in the area of Indigenous rights and has worked in collaboration with Métis, First Nation, Inuit, federal, provincial and international government bodies and organizations. She is the author of two books on the Metis settlements of Alberta; contributor to and co-editor of Intercultural Dispute Resolution in Aboriginal Contexts (with David Kahane); and contributor to and co- editor of First Nations Cultural Heritage and Law: Case Studies, Voices and Perspectives (with Val Napolean) and Protection of First Nations Cultural Heritage: Laws, Policy and Reform (with Robert Paterson). Her work in the area of Canadian heritage law, policy and reform draws on Indigenous and Canadian conceptualizations of property and legal institutions, as well as the legal and ethical dynamics at play. Recent projects include collaborations with Yukon First Nations on cultural heritage law and practice under chapter 13 of the YFN land claim and with the Canadian Museums and Indigenous Peoples Council. Her current research focuses on Métis constitutional rights, Indigenous research ethics and the intersection of property law, ethics and Indigenous law in museum settings. In 2012 she was honoured with the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to Aboriginal law and legal education in Canada.
Tim Bernard is well known beyond his own community of Millbrook as the Manager/Editor of the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Nations News and Eastern Woodland Print Communications. Employed by The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) as a Land Claims Researcher from 1988 to 1994, he gained extensive historical knowledge under the direction of Dr. Donald Julien. He now brings his management expertise to The CMM as the Director of History and Culture, and to the development of the Mi’kmawey Debert project.
Tim is the Mi’kmaw co-chair of the Culture and History working committee of the Tripartite Forum as well as a member of the History Month and Treaty Day committees. Through these and other avenues, Tim’s direction affects communities across Nova Scotia. He has set forth and achieved realistic and meaningful outcomes through these avenues, advancing knowledge and appreciation for place names, language growth and retention, cultural resources for educators and the importance of the stories of Elders and others in the communities.
He has served on the task force of the Nova Scotia Heritage Strategy and is regularly involved with overall heritage and tourism sector development. Tim Bernard is a member of the Board of Directors for the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre.
Cody Groat is Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario. He is currently working on a SSHRC-funded PhD in History at Wilfrid Laurier University on the changing relationship between the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Indigenous People from 1919 to 2019. This will explore themes such as the politics of commemoration, how sites are interpreted, and how Indigenous perspectives of heritage are understood through commemorative designations. Prior to this, Cody earned an MA degree in World Heritage Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK), during which he wrote an article for the British Journal of Canadian Studies on the politics of commemorating Canadian Residential Schools. Cody is the author of the book Canadian Stories (2016), which features his interviews with figures such as Paul Martin,
Kim Campbell, Dan Aykroyd, Farley Mowat and Peter Mansbridge, among others. Cody sits on the Board of Trustees for Chiefswood National Historic Site, Pauline Johnson’s former home in Oshweken, and on the Board of Governors for Wilfrid Laurier University.
Melody Lepine is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation and was raised in the beautiful community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. Her family and community traditional teachings in environmental stewardship at a young age motivated her to advance studies in environmental conservation sciences at the University of Alberta and enroll in the Masters of Science program at Royal Roads University. The balance of teachings in both traditional environmental knowledge and western science has become Melody’s key strength in her professional career. Melody has worked for her community and First Nation for the past fourteen years. As the Director of the Mikisew Cree First Nation Government and Industry Relations department, she is responsible for overseeing all government and industry consultation pertaining to resource development that impacts the Mikisew Cree.
Joella Hogan is a Northern Tutchone and a member of the Crow Clan. She has a Bsc in Environmental Planning and an MA in Rural and Community Planning. She currently works as the Manager of Heritage & Culture for the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun in Mayo, Yukon.
Walking in “two worlds”, Art Napoleon is as comfortable on a big city stage or boardroom as he is skinning a moose in a hailstorm with a pocketknife. Tapping into rich and profound ancestral knowledge to create sustainable and ethical alternatives for the modern world are the foundations that guide him in his many projects. A former Chief of the Saulteau First Nations in northeastern BC, Art is a conservationist, naturalist, faith–‐keeper and educator who interprets life through the holistic lens of the Cree worldview. Art also has an MA degree from the University of Victoria in Indigenous Language Revitalization, where one of his goals is to help communities revitalize endangered languages and in the wisdom embedded in these ancient languages. Art is co-host of the hit TV show “Moosemeat and Marmalade”.
Sarah Pashagumskum is a member of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi. Prior to taking a leave to serve as the Chair of the Cree School Board, Sarah has been Executive Director of the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou, Quebec.
Madeleine Redfern is the current and a past Mayor of Iqaluit, recipient of an Indspire award, and strong social advocate and businessperson. Holding an LLB from the University of Victoria, she was the first Inuk to work as a clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. She served as Executive Director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission from 2007 to 2010, a highly regarded examination of the relationship between government and Inuit in the period from 1950-1980.
IHC Administrator: Julie Harris
Julie Harris is a heritage consultant and public historian based in Ottawa who supports the IHC as a volunteer administrator. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals.
- Don Bain
- Dr. Yvonne Boyer
- Julie Harris
- Dr. Daniel Millette