U.S. Protection of Archaeological and Ethnological
April 10, 1997, the Government of the United States of America and the
Government of Canada signed an Agreement to
protect archaeological and ethnological material that represents the Aboriginal
cultural groups of Canada. The Agreement also includes protection for historic
shipwrecks. The protection is in the form of U.S. import restrictions that
went into effect on April 22, 1997, when the U.S. Customs Service published
in the Federal Register the designated list
of objects to be restricted from entering the United States, unless
accompanied by an export certificate issued by the Canadian government.
This U.S. action is in response to
a request from the Government of Canada under Article 9 of the 1970
UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit
Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The
U.S. became a party to the Convention in 1983, following passage of the
Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
Such action assists another country in combating the destruction of archaeological
sites and the unauthorized removal of ethnological material that may be
the communal property of indigenous groups. Both categories are non-renewable
resources and important to the cultural legacy of a nation. The U.S.-Canada
agreement also advances the promotion of cultural values, one of the action
items agreed upon at the 1994 Summit of the Americas where participants
pledged to work with hemispheric governments to enhance appreciation of
indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various means, including
the implementation of cultural property protection agreements.
This Agreement protects archaeological
artifacts and ethnographic material of the following Aboriginal cultural
groups: Inuit (Eskimo); Subarctic Indian; Northwest Coast Indian; Plateau
Indian; Plains Indian; and Woodlands Indian. The Agreement also covers
non-Aboriginal archaeological material from historic shipwrecks and other
underwater sites that are at least 250 years old. Canada allows a free
market in such cultural items but does have a control list restricting
certain material from export without a license. U.S. protection does not
exceed that restriction.
Ethnographic Material Culture
In accordance with Canadian law, restrictions
only apply to ethnological material which was made, reworked or adapted
for use by an Aboriginal person of Canada who is no longer living, which
is greater than 50 years old, and which has a fair market value in Canada
of more than $3,000 (Canadian). Ethnographic material from the following
Aboriginal cultural groups is subject to U.S. import restrictions, unless
accompanied by a Canadian export permit: Inuit (Eskimo), Subarctic Indian;
Northwest Coast Indian, Plains Indian, and Woodlands Indian.
The Government of Canada, in accordance
with its law, will not restrict the export of archaeological artifacts
recovered less than 75 years after their loss, concealment or abandonment.
The U. S. import restriction, however, only applies to archaeological material
that is at least 250 years old. Given this age threshold, archaeological
artifacts from the following Aboriginal cultural groups are restricted
from entering the U.S. unless accompanied by a Canadian export permit:
Inuit (Eskimo), Northwest Coast Indian; Plateau Indian; and Woodlands Indian.
Also included is non-Aboriginal archaeological material from historic shipwrecks
and from other underwater historic sites in the inland waters of Canada
as well as the Canadian territorial waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and
Arctic oceans, and the Great Lakes.
Canada Provides Reciprocal Assistance
to the U.S.
For the first time, such a bilateral
agreement contains a reciprocal provision in which Canada recognizes the
existence of U.S. laws that protect archaeological
resources and Native American cultural items as well as historic shipwrecks.
Canada agrees to cooperate with the U.S. Government in recovering such
objects that have entered Canada illicitly.
Signing the United States and Canada Bilateral Agreement in Washington,
DC, on April 10, 1997: (l to r) Dr. Joseph Duffey, Director, USIA; E.
Anthony Wayne, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian
Affairs, and His Excellency Raymond A. S. Chrétien, Canada's Ambassador
to the United States (photograph courtesy of Cultural Property, USIA).
As one of the signers of the U.S.-Canada
cultural property accord, Dr. Joseph Duffey, Director, U.S. Information
"[The Agreement is] a new
and important dimension to the strong partnership of our two countries.
We share not only a long and open border but also a heritage common in
its origins while unique in the identity it gives us in modern times. Our
two nations owe a debt of gratitude to our Native peoples and we are pleased
to have this opportunity as nations to honor their contributions by agreeing
to protect the archaeological and ethnological material that represents
this cultural heritage."
Both nations pledge to use their best
efforts to promote the exchange of material for educational and scientific
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Revised: October 20, 1998
FROM THE FOLLOWING:
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