Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, CANADA.
In recent years, much has been written about the changing relationships between museum professionals and First Nations. However, most of these accounts have been authored by the former group, while First Nations perspectives are conveyed through second hand accounts or less frequently the writings of indigenous scholars and artists. This thesis explores another type of viewpoint by presenting perspectives shared by individuals living and working in Coast Salish communities in Canada and the United States. The intent is to gain a clearer picture of something that has been referred to as the “democratization of the museum” by Canadian museum professionals such as Duncan Cameron (1982). Has access to museums and their resources dramatically increased? Is this reflected in current museum practice, exhibits, and public programs?
To better understand the current status of community and museum partnerships I explore what drives Coast Salish communities to participate in museum representations (and other public commemorations). I also discuss some of the legal implications such representations have for establishing or defending aboriginal rights and title. From this vantage point I proceed to explore specific museum projects and partnerships, analysing the diverse experiences of those Coast Salish individuals who were invited and then chose to participate in this research project. A critique of museums results, but it is presented with the intent of providing a moment of reflexivity – an opportunity to re-evaluate current museum and community interactions, so that we can take another step forward on the path to equal partnership.