A nuanced study of conflicts over possession of Aboriginal artifacts.
North America's museums are treasured for their collections of Aboriginal ethnographic and archaeological objects. Yet stories of how these artifacts were acquired often reveal unethical acts and troubling chains of possession, as well as unexpected instances of collaboration. For instance, archaeological excavation of Aboriginal graves was so prevalent in the late-eighteenth century that the government of Upper Canada legislated against it, although this did little to stop the practice. Many objects were collected by non-Native outsiders to preserve cultures perceived to be nearing extinction, while other objects were donated or sold by the same Native communities that later demanded their return. Some Native people collected for museums and even created their own. Providing a comprehensive overview of anthropological collecting in Ontario between 1791 and 1914, Collections and Objections details the complicated relationships between Euro-Canadian and Native cultures, the numerous ways in which Aboriginal objects were acquired, and the motives behind their collection. The concluding chapter connects historical practices of collecting to present day debates over the stewardship of Aboriginal material culture in Canada and the United States. A remarkable look at the relationships between the public, historical societies, governments, professional anthropologists, and various Native communities, Collections and Objectionst explores the legacy of interest in Aboriginal heritage.