Ancestors Reburial Project

collage of indigenous people

About the Project

The City of Medicine Hat, the Miywasin Friendship Centre, and the University of Alberta are actively working together to rebury the remains and associated burial artifacts of three ancestors held in public trust at the University of Alberta. These three institutions have come together to form the Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project and all partners are committed to the reburial of these ancestors in a respectful manner in their original resting place of Medicine Hat. 

The remains of these ancestors have been held at the University of Alberta within the Osteology museum collection since 1967 when they were uncovered in the Medicine Hat area. While the ancestors have been cared for at the U of A, their rightful place is to be at peace within their community.

The Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project Team is committed to the reburial of these ancestors in a respectful manner following the wishes and requests of the communities involved. The Project Team is also committed to ensuring that community members and individuals are consulted and informed during the course of this project. Consultation and engagement efforts are ongoing and through this web page and other channels, we strive to keep the community informed of the project and important milestones.

Timeline
The following outlines the sequence of events regarding the Ancestors Reburial Project thus far. Project dates are subject to change. The Project Team will aim to update the timelines on this website as changes occur.
March 13, 2023
The Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project website launches.
July 10, 2023
Invitations go out for "Welcoming our Ancestors Home" a panel and discussions hosted by the Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project Team. 
 August 2, 2023
Community Event "Welcoming our Ancestors Home" from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre | Studio Room | 401 1st SE, Medicine Hat, Alberta. 
September 21, 2023

Community Event "Welcoming our Ancestors home" panel presentation and discussion, and an invitation for community conversation regarding the reburial of Medicine Hat Ancestors. From 1 - 3 p.m. Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre | Studio Room | 401 1st SE, Medicine Hat, Alberta. 

 September 22, 2023

An invitation for community-driven knowledge sharing with the University of Alberta Team Members regarding the reburial of Medicine Hat Ancestors. Community members are welcome to bring their knowledge of traditional burial practices regarding preparation of remains, transportation, schedule, ceremony, and care of the site and Ancestors into the future. 

Refreshments  |  No RSVP required

November 16, 2023
Community Event panel presentation and discussion: "Welcoming our Ancestors Home." From 1 - 3 p.m. at the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre | Studio Room | 401 1 St SE | Medicine Hat, AB. 
 February 21, 2024
The Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project Team invites Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and interested community members to join us:

Wednesday, February 21, 2024  
Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre  |  Studio Room  |  401 1 St SE  |  Medicine Hat, AB
1-3 PM  |  Panel presentation and discussion: "Welcoming our Ancestors home"

During this special gathering, the Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project Team welcomes guidance on the topic of traditional Indigenous burial protocols of this region. We are exploring questions such as:  

  • How should the ceremony for the reinterment proceed?
  • What time of day should the ceremony take place?
  • How should the Ancestors be transported to Medicine Hat?

 RSVP: amyconnochie@hotmail.com or 250.581.2111 

February 22, 2024

Miywasin Friendship Centre invites Service Providers and those interested in promoting reconciliACTION in our community to join us:

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024
Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre  |  Studio Room  |  401 1 St SE  |  Medicine Hat, AB
9 AM-12 PM  |  KAIROS Blanket Exercise

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is an experiential learning tool based on participatory education methodology that explores the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the land we now know as Canada. For a more impactful experience, please bring your own blanket that can be placed on the floor and stood upon.

RSVP: amyconnochie@hotmail.com or 250.581.2111 

Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers below will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. 

How was this project initiated?
The original request to inquire and rebury these ancestors came from a community member in the Medicine Hat area in 2017.
Under what circumstances were the ancestors' remains discovered?
The ancestors’ remains were discovered on the side of Scholten Hill on private property as a result of animal (badger) activity in the area in July 1967. Excavations of the ancestors' remains were conducted by individuals affiliated with a University of Alberta Archaeological Survey team who were in the Medicine Hat area on another archaeological dig. 
Where are the ancestors' remains currently being held? How did they get there?

The ancestors’ remains were brought to the University of Alberta in July 1967 and they have been housed in the Osteology museum collection. The circumstances of how they came to the University of Alberta relate to there being no existing legislation outlining the care of archaeological human remains or unregistered burials. Due to this, archaeological remains were often turned over to the institution relevant to the researcher related to the excavation. In this instance, the University of Alberta. 


At the time, the Universities Act 1966 (since replaced by the Post-Secondary Learning Act) gave authority to the University of Alberta to collect human remains. The Post-Secondary Learning Act details that the board of a university is able to “demand, obtain, and use unclaimed [human remains]” for scientific and research purposes. While it is allowable, currently the Department of Anthropology no longer actively seeks to accession human remains into museum collections at the University of Alberta.

In what ways have the ancestors been identified? Ethnicity, age, sex, names?

It has been confirmed that there are three ancestors identified as part of the original discovery in 1967. Osteobiographies were performed on each of the ancestors by the Curator of the Osteology Collection and forensic anthropologist.

In no particular order, the following information has been confirmed:

  • One ancestor was identified as an Indigenous female, most likely between 50 and 60 years of age. It is possible that she had a child sometime during her life, and she stood approximately 162.70 ± 2.41 cm tall.
  • One ancestor was identified as an infant, likely nearing 1 year of age, of undetermined sex, stature and ancestry. Based on its original burial location, it is likely that this ancestor is Indigenous (as other cultural markers could not be determined).
  • One ancestor was identified as a child, most likely between 4 to 5 years of age, of undetermined sex, stature and ancestry. Based on its original burial location, it is likely that this ancestor is Indigenous (as other cultural markers could not be determined).
How long were the ancestors buried?
The Project Team estimates that these ancestors were buried for a minimum of 80 years prior to 1967. To our knowledge, carbon dating or destructive sampling has not taken place on these ancestors.
Were there any artifacts recovered with the ancestors?

There were burial artifacts uncovered with the ancestors and those are also housed at the University of Alberta. Our intention is to rebury these artifacts with the ancestors. More details about these needs are currently being researched and verified as part of this project. 

Who is paying for this project and how much will it cost? Are taxpayer dollars being spent?

This project is a partnership between the City of Medicine Hat, the Miywasin Friendship Centre, and the University of Alberta. This project has been partially funded by Canadian Heritage and any additional funds and in-kind costs will be covered by the partners depending on the areas of responsibilities.

With the participation of the Government of Canada. 
« Avec la participation du gouvernement du Canada. »

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How, when, and by whom will the ancestors' remains be transported back to Medicine Hat?
Specific details around the return of the ancestors to Medicine Hat from the University of Alberta are still being worked out and will be determined through community consultation and conversations.
Where will the ancestors be laid to rest?
They will be laid to rest in the Hillside Cemetery in the City of Medicine Hat. Specific locations within the cemetery are not yet known.
Who will be invited to take part in the consultation process?

The Project Team would like to invite all interested community members to attend upcoming community events to invite consultation, conversation, and dialogue around welcoming the ancestors home.  During these gatherings, the Medicine Hat Ancestors Reburial Project Team will be there to present information, respond to questions, invite discussion, and listen to considerations and recommendations from the community. All are welcome to attend these gatherings. 

Upcoming events include:

November 16, 2023 - Community Event panel presentation and discussion: "Welcoming our Ancestors Home."

More dates will be added as they become available.

How will you determine which customs and protocols to follow?
The Project Team’s work is closely informed by Indigenous peoples (or members of Indigenous communities) on the Project Team. Community events and gatherings will help the Team determine protocols and recommendations to welcome the ancestors home.

Resources

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides 24-hour crisis support to former Indian Residential School students and their families toll-free at 1-866-925-4419.

Individuals impacted by the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are encouraged to contact the MMIWG Crisis Line toll-free at 1-844-413-6649.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis seeking immediate emotional support can contact the Hope for Wellness Help Line toll-free at 1-855-242-3310, or by online chat at hopeforwellness.ca.

The Project Team

The Project Team is made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals from the partnering institutions of City of Medicine Hat, the Miywasin Friendship Centre, and the University of Alberta.

About the Miywasin Friendship Centre: Miywasin Friendship Centre is a partnership that targets the needs of the Indigenous community in the Medicine Hat area and develops and maintains services to meet those needs. Based on the Medicine Wheel concept, the Indigenous service delivery centre is the central hub of the wheel and the focus of the Centre is for programmed activities, workshops, recreation, counselling, tutoring, cultural resources, housing, resources, etc. Since our inception in 1996, MFC has strived to form mutually respectful partnerships that benefit Indigenous people and the community as a whole. MFC facilitates cultural ceremonies and teachings within the community to facilitate a greater awareness and understanding of Indigenous culture and the impacts of colonization. Our goal is to train, educate and break down barriers and dispel myths and stereotypes towards Indigenous Peoples. It is important that our stories are told and we take ownership of the process. We believe this project will strengthen respectful ties between Miywasin Friendship Centre, the community of Medicine Hat, and the Province of Alberta. Together we will bring education and awareness of our local and wider regional history, and the importance of Indigenous culture and traditions in healing and moving forward. Visit, miywasincentre.net

About the University of Alberta: Located in Edmonton, the University of Alberta is one of Canada’s leading universities. Created by one of the first acts of the Alberta legislature, our university is one of the province’s most enduring and vital public institutions.  The University of Alberta acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory and homeland of the Métis, and respects the histories, languages, and cultures of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant community. Visit, ualberta.ca

Feedback

We welcome your feedback. Please use the feedback form to submit your comments and contact details.

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This project is funded [in part] by the Government of Canada.
« Ce projet est financé [en partie] par le gouvernement du Canada. »

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