The transformative power of T’xwelátse: a collaborative case study in search of new approaches to Indigenous cultural repatriation processes




Campbell, Emmy-Lou

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This collaborative study investigates the events that led to the repatriation of the Stone T’xwelátse from the Burke Museum of Natural History, University of Washington Seattle, USA to the Noxwsá7aq people of Deming Washington, USA and to the Stó:lō people of Chilliwack, B.C. Canada. Stone T’xwelátse is the first ancestor of the Chilliwack people who was transformed to stone by the transformer This research grew out of the desire to learn about and share the positive lessons learned during the repatriation process and to investigate if these experiences could benefit repatriation processes in Canada, specifically the province of B.C. This work establishes the current legal setting for cultural repatriation processes in Canada, the United States, and internationally, tells the ancient and contemporary story of Stone T’xwelátse, and examines the impact of Indigenous law, differing worldviews, community capacity, and relationships on cultural repatriation processes. An analysis of the conflict is presented through the identification of the key challenges and successes. The events of the repatriation, as told by the research participants, support the argument for the implementation of John Paul Lederach’s Conflict Transformation Theory practices in future cultural repatriation processes. Using Participatory Action Research and Indigenous Research methodologies data was gathered through participant interviews to form the result of the study: How to Work Together in a Good Way: Recommendations for the Future for Museums, Communities, and Individuals from the Participants of the Stone T’xwelátse Repatriation Research Project and Museum Professionals. These recommendations were formed to share the lessons learned from the Stone T’xwelátse repatriation and also to state changes that the participants would like to see implemented in cultural repatriation processes in Canada. Stone T’xwelátse is now with the Stó:lō people fulfilling his role to teach the people “how to live together in a good way.”



Conflict Transformation Theory, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Property, Museum Studies, Stó:lō, Nooksack Tribe, Burke Museum of Natural History, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, worldview, Indigenous Research Methodology, Participatory Action Research, Recommendations, T’xwelátse