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An Approach to Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes

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Over a number of years the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada ( HSMBC) has identified the need to increase the national recognition of the history of Aboriginal peoples. Traditionally, the HSMBC has used historical and anthropological frameworks and specified criteria as the bases for assessing the national historic significance of places, people or events. The Board has, however, recognized that its conventional criteria, structure and framework for evaluation do not adequately respond to the values inherent in the history of Aboriginal people. Ultimately the question is:

Can the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada develop a commemorative approach to Aboriginal history in Canada in ways that are meaningful to Aboriginal people while at the same time upholding the rigour of its own evaluative process?

Since 1990 the Board has explored various approaches to this challenge. This present web presentation offers the approach of 'cultural landscape' as one possible response. It does not presume to speak for Aboriginal peoples. The original background paper, upon which this presentation is based, was commissioned for and addressed to the HSMBC. The aim was to provide the Board with a framework that could encompass the traditional values of Aboriginal peoples, including spiritual views of the natural world and associative values in the land, while still being understandable to Board members whose world views are typically based in Western historical scholarship.

To accomplish this the author, historian Susan Buggey, approached the field from a policy and social science perspective. She presented an understanding of Aboriginal world views and notions of place gleaned from her own extensive readings, and from consultation with knowledgeable colleagues. She then situated these views in relation to the field of cultural landscapes and to national historic site designations related to the history of Aboriginal people. She offered a working definition of "Aboriginal cultural landscape" and proposed guidelines for the identification of such landscapes.

Birds on pond in meadow of marsh grass
Marsh in spring, Point Pelee National Park, Ontario
© Parks Canada / W. Lynch /, 1991

It is now time to enlarge participation in this dialogue. The current presentation includes the essential content of the original background paper tailored to a web format and invites your comments.

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Last Updated: 2009-02-24 To the top
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