Renewing relationships at the centre: generating a postcolonial understanding of Asiniskow Ithiniwak (Rocky Cree) heritage
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For the Asiniskow Ithiniwak (Rocky Cree), the Missinipi (Churchill River) holds many traditional resource areas and cultural landscapes with oral histories that transfer knowledge through the generations (Linklater 1994; Castel and Westfall 2001; Brightman 1993). In recent decades, hydroelectric development in north central Manitoba has impacted Cree livelihood by altering resource use, limiting access to significant cultural landscapes and accelerating the erosion of campsites and ancestral burials into the water. Even with existing provincial heritage legislation, some of these heritage resources remain threatened by land-based developments because of the limitations related to their identification, documentation and presentation in the cultural resource management field. The tendency to focus on physical manifestations of heritage such as archaeological sites, heritage objects and built heritage overlooks other resources of heritage such as places known in the local language. I argue that these biases result from cultural divergences that exist in the understanding and definitions of heritage, particularly Indigenous heritage. In this dissertation, I articulate how underlying theoretical assumptions of reality influences our understandings of heritage. I present a postcolonial understanding of heritage as interpreted from the perspective of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak using an Indigenous research paradigm, methodologies and the nīhithow language, in conjunction with knowledge based on Western intellectual traditions. The use of a bicultural research model led to new ways in identifying heritage resources important to the Asiniskow Ithiniwak and meaningful interpretations of archaeological materials based on legal traditions. Further, this case study demonstrates that there is no singular or universal definition of heritage for Indigenous peoples. For successful heritage resources protection, I illustrate that understandings of heritage need to be contextualized locally through a community’s language, culture, customary laws and local landscape. This view, promoted by UNESCO, emphasizes that the values and practices of local communities, together with traditional management systems, must be fully understood, respected, encouraged and accommodated in management plans if their heritage resources are to be sustained in the future (Logan 2008; UNESCO 2004). This outcome demonstrates the need to reexamine the practices, policies, legislation and procedures concerned with Indigenous knowledge in cultural and natural resources management in Canada.