Outgoing Royal BC Museum Indigenous collection curator calls it a ‘wicked’ place

Click to play video: 'Departing Royal BC Museum curator calls  it a ‘wicked’ place' Departing Royal BC Museum curator calls it a ‘wicked’ place
WATCH: Departing Royal BC Museum curator calls it a 'wicked' place. Kylie Stanton reports. – Feb 11, 2021

The Royal BC Museum is facing more questions this week over its treatment of Indigenous staff and handling of Indigenous culture.

Outgoing Indigenous collection curator Troy Sebastian took to social media on Tuesday to blast the institution, which he described as a “wicked place.”

Read more: First Nations leaders condemn widespread reports of racism at Royal BC Museum

Sebastian, a Ktunaxa writer, said the museum has failed to acknowledge the presence of systemic racism in the institution and said its culture remains steeped in a colonial mindset.

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“Currently there are Indigenous human remains held in the museum. There are sacred objects that have been taken from our community during the potlach ban and during the residential school system, and that is an example of the systemic racism that is currently in the museum,” he said.

“(In the museum’s permanent gallery,) Indigenous peoples are people without history, without future and a people without land or law, and that portrayal has to stop.”

Read more: Royal BC Museum to stop collecting Indigenous remains in reconciliation effort

Sebastian also echoed Lucy Bell, a Haida woman and former head of the Indigenous Collection and Repatriation Department, who cited racism in her resignation last summer.

“She said there was microaggressions, she said there was discrimination against Indigenous people and she said there was outright harassment, and that’s been my experience in my time as curator,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Premier John Horgan on Royal BC Museum controversy' Premier John Horgan on Royal BC Museum controversy
Premier John Horgan on Royal BC Museum controversy – Feb 10, 2021

On Tuesday, museum CEO Jack Lohman stepped down.

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It hired a diversity and inclusion consultant in August after Bell’s departure, and has a task force working on a report into its equity, diversity and inclusion policies.

A separate formal investigation is being headed by the Public Service Agency.

Read more: Indigenous students convince B.C. government to change name of provincial park

Daniel Muzyka, the museum’s acting CEO and board chair, said the institution was taking the complaints seriously.

“Any allegations brought up by Troy or others in the museum we’ve been very conscious of, and we’ve been following up,” he said.

But modernizing the institution and its approach to cultural issues, he said, was neither an overnight fix nor was it one the Royal BC Museum is facing alone.

“Cultural change is a process, it involves everyone in the organization,” he said.

“I would say that while every museum has a different situation, world wide, museums are being challenged in their presentation of history, they’re being challenged in the acquisition of their collections, and culture issues are something we really do want to understand all of the elements of. We’re very concerned and we want to make sure we deal with them.”

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Muzyka added that the museum was increasing resources to its Indigenous connections and repatriation unit.

But Sebastian said for a museum whose catalogue relies so heavily on Indigenous culture to truly evolve, it must be led by Indigenous people.

“You cannot treat Indigenous peoples like this, and tell the story about us, and of us, without us,” he said.

CORRECTION: A prior video version of this story stated that Troy Sebastian resigned from the museum. In fact, his contract ended Friday, and he says he is more than willing to work for the institution again provided they no longer have an unsafe work environment. Global News regrets the error.

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