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An Approach to Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes


Identifying National Historic Significance

How does the HSMBC now propose to identify national significance in Aboriginal cultural landscapes?

Traditionally, the HSMBC has used historical and anthropological frameworks to specify 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. It has reiterated in its discussions that "nature, tradition, continuity and attachment to the land are seen as the defining elements in determining historic significance" when dealing with Aboriginal peoples. It has likewise emphasized that "its interest was not only in considering groups for commemoration, but in focussing on the importance of place to the Aboriginal group ...." (HSMBC Minutes, July 1998). The concept of cultural landscapes provides a direction for responding to these concerns.

Cluster of tepees on prairie.
Tepees at the elbow of the Saskatchewan River.
© National Archives of Canada / C 5181, September 1871.

The HSMBC has agreed, with regard to the number of cultural groups, that "any future deliberations could be accommodated by the 60 distinct groups identified in the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples" and has requested an analysis of "the implications of using language groups to represent a field against which to determine national historic significance". (HSMBC Minutes, July 1998) It has also initiated discussion with regard to using "the traditional territory of an Aboriginal nation ... as the comparative universe for the site proposed for commemoration or designation". (Federal Archaeology Office, 1998a: 21)


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