Former Burns Lake resident helps protect First Nations’ cultural properties

“Often the portrayal of our history is skewed and coming from a colonial bias”

Former Burns Laker Spencer Greening has been helping a First Nations community reclaim its cultural heritage.

After living in Burns Lake until he was 18 years old, Greening decided to connect with his mother’s Gitga’at culture. The home community of the Gitga’at Nation, Hartley Bay, lies about 80 km southwest of Kitimat.

“For too long, our artifacts, knowledge, and culture have been taken and appropriated into western institutions for the sole benefit of those institutions,” he said. “For years, our community has been working in initiatives to protect intellectual and cultural property of our peoples.”

Greening said a part of this process includes “decolonizing academia on an institutional level,” having museums and university courses offered in places where traditional knowledge and culture comes from – within First Nations communities.

“In my eyes, there is a power imbalance when a western institution has the strongest means to convey this knowledge and history to the largest audience,” he said. “Often the portrayal of our history is skewed and coming from a colonial bias.”

Greening recalls an unpleasant visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“It is unnerving when one of the most renowned museums in the world inappropriately displays our artifacts and misrepresents our history,” he said. “How relevant does our history become when people around the world spend a couple minutes glancing at a display that is a misrepresentation of a place they will never visit.”

“The whole idea of it devalues our knowledge,” he added. “Especially when you consider how many of these items were stolen.”

Greening has worked for the Gitga’at Nation doing environmental assessments and cultural studies. The anthropology graduate student is now getting ready to defend his master’s thesis at the University of Northern British Columbia. He plans to begin his PhD at Simon Fraser University this September.

His motivation for preserving and sharing his cultural heritage is based on his belief that cultural knowledge is key in preserving sustainable relationships with the environment.

“On a global level, humans are in drastic place of change and disconnect with the earth,” he said. “Indigenous cultures hold ancestral knowledge that have allowed humans to thrive in complex societies for millennia and give us insight into sustainable living practices with the earth.”

“On a national level, indigenous knowledge plays an increasingly vital role in academic scholarship, Canadian law and policy, and the promotion of environmental awareness,” he added. “It is natural that I look to the knowledge that my roots come from to address these areas I wish to have positive influence in.”

 

Just Posted

Hazelton’s Vickers creates Grateful Dead album cover

“Unbelievable, inspiring, grounding, and very exciting,” Roy Henry Vickers says of experience

Aboriginal program coming to CNC here

A rejuvenated aboriginal studies program is coming to the College of New… Continue reading

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

First Nation pipeline protesters erect ‘tiny homes’ in B.C. Park

Kanahus Manuel and Tiny House Warriors say more homes being constructed in park

Burns Lake celebrates

Despite the cooler weather the Canada Day celebration was a success. The… Continue reading

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Crews battle fire northeast of Terrace

The 10-hectare fire was discovered Saturday

Northern B.C. cadet goes from English Channel to BC Summer Games

Amber Ly is taking her experience aboard the tall ship Royalist with to Cowichan July 19-22

Intertidal Music Festival back for round two

More than 20 performances throughout the day at the North Pacific Cannery on July 21

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read