U.S. Response:
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U.S. Protection of Archaeological and Ethnological Materials

On 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.  

Archaeological Material

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 U.S. - Canada Bilateral Agreement 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 Agency, said  

"[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 purposes.  

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Revised: October 20, 1998

1997 Agreement  

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