A lot of people probably didn’t notice when federal Bill C-391 passed. But for those interested in bringing home cultural artifacts and human remains, it’s a pretty big deal. One of those is Travis A. Gladue-Beauregard, an Edmonton resident who is a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation.
The act in question, C-391, is sub-titled ‘An Act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of Indigenous human remains and cultural property.’ Gladue – who is a founding member of the Bigstone Empowerment Society – testified before a House of Commons committee on the topic last year. He says the addition of ‘human remains’ to the bill was due to his testimony, “I was told by officials.”
His interest is personal. His great-grandfather was Maxime Beauregard, who was Bigstone Chief from 1947 to 1962. He was a patient at the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton in the 1960s, and like many Indigenous people who died there, he was buried far from home. Gladue and others have been advocating for the right (and maybe the means) to locate and bring his remains back home where they belong.
As far as cultural property goes, the discussions that led to the introduction of Bill C-391 included the desire of Bigstone members to see artifacts held by museums repatriated as well. The Leader ran a story on some of these a year or two ago – held by the Royal Alberta Museum. Some of these items were made by Bigstone members who were hospitalized for long periods of time at the Camsell. In his testimony before the Canadian Heritage Committee on Oct. 2, 2018, Gladue talked about stumbling upon the existence of these items when he was researching his great-grandfather. The artifacts haven’t been brought back to Wabasca due to delays in getting a proper museum set up there. The building has been acquired and fixed up, but funding is lacking, Gladue says.
“The funding should be a local and federal collaboration,” he adds.
The passage of the bill is only a start. Gladue says the precise burial place of Maxime Beauregard isn’t known. It’s believed to be at the Winterburn cemetery, but beyond that, nobody living is quite sure.
“It’s a small step,” Gladue says, “but at least progress has been made.”
Gladue thinks at least there should be a memorial at the site for Chief Beauregard, and not only for him. There should be “a memorial for those who didn’t return home from the Camsell.”