First Nations Cultural Heritage and Law: Case Studies, Voices, and Perspectives.


544 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1461-4
DDC 971.004'97





Edited by Catherine Bell and Val Napoleon
Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Kars,


A companion volume to the more theoretical Protection of First Nations Cultural Heritage. Laws, Policy, and Reform (reviewed separately), this book provides the perspectives of a variety of First Nations communities on the protection of indigenous cultural heritage. As well as case studies from British Columbia and southern Alberta, this volume contains an overview that provides a framework for examining the issues, by relating the specific information in the case studies to concerns about protection of cultural heritage that are shared by indigenous peoples throughout Canada.


Direct quotes from First Nations’ participants in the case studies reveal the frustrations in trying to deal with tourist operators and non-First Nations individuals who appropriate indigenous cultural materials, traditions, and knowledge for financial gain. At its core, protection of indigenous cultural heritage is a struggle between Western concepts of private property and the pivotal relationship between cultural property and identity in First Nations societies. This is a gulf that cannot bet easily bridged. A common theme shared with the companion volume is the importance of the recognition of local customary law and the involvement of First Nations individuals, families, and communities in the protection of cultural resources rather than simply relying on state sponsored initiatives.


The case studies reflect the necessity of building positive and productive relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations peoples and between First Nations and institutions, including the academic and scientific community, resource developers, tourist operators, and government agencies. In the past, power imbalances have impeded the effective formation of such relationships and, as the material in this volume shows, problems remain. Also in issue is the funding of protection and repatriation efforts—a costly exercise that, it is argued, is more properly borne by the institutions that acquired and benefited from the removal of the cultural items in the first place.


“First Nations Cultural Heritage and Law: Case Studies, Voices, and Perspectives.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 29, 2023,