Aboriginal heritage: museums and archaeology

This ministry's programs and services play an important role in the conservation, protection and preservation of Ontario's Aboriginal heritage resources.

The governing authority for one of our Community Museums for instance, must be one of the following:

  • A non-profit corporation
  • The council of a municipality
  • A public library board operating under the Public Libraries Act
  • An Indian Band Council
  • A Conservation Authority.

Standards for Community Museums provides more information.

Aboriginal archaeology in Ontario

In Ontario, 80 per cent of all archaeological sites are Aboriginal. This includes First Nations villages, longhouses, hunting camps, portage areas, burial grounds and ossuaries. Artifacts that have been uncovered include pottery shards, arrow and spear points, and everyday materials used by First Nations and Métis people. Some artifacts, such as sacred bundles, funerary objects and human remains are sensitive, and one must treat them with utmost respect and dignity.

Role of communities

This ministry has taken active steps to include First Nations and Métis in archaeological assessment through new Standards and Guidelines for Consultant Archaeologists, which require licensed archaeologists to engage communities on Aboriginal sites.

The draft technical bulletin, Engaging Aboriginal Communities in Archaeology,is a living document that helps consultant archaeologists plan engagement. It encourages best practices, such as using on-site monitors from communities.

The ministry will continue to accept community feedback on this document to ensure that it remains useful and effective.

Ongoing engagement

The Ministry is committed to ongoing engagement with communities.

In 2011, the ministry helped launch the new standards and guidelines by holding province-wide sessions for First Nations and Métis, in collaboration with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

While the main purpose of the sessions was to provide information on current government policy, they also provided an opportunity for dialogue to help the ministry better understand community culture and heritage priorities – including interests beyond archaeology, such as cultural planning and tourism.

For more information, contact engageMTCS@ontario.ca

Other resources

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website provides information to help municipalities and their staff understand their opportunities and responsibilities for engaging and consulting with Aboriginal communities on development issues. It also provides examples of current experiences.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing explains why full participation of the local and Aboriginal communities is an essential component of the design, implementation and review of archaeological management planning studies for Archaeological Management Plans. These plans support the implementation of municipal policies and procedures for identifying and conserving archaeological resources. Local and Aboriginal communities must have the opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage.