Archaeology and the stewardship of cultural heritage are inherently political undertakings. Worldwide, archaeology’s colonial legacy has produced systems of research and management that fail to recognize or serve Indigenous descendant communities’ special rights to and interests in their ancestral heritage. The decolonization of archaeology, and of society, requires a commitment to social engagement and political responsibility that are both professionally and morally just. I investigate the potential for this transformation through the issues of gatekeeping, ethical relativism, control and power imbalances, competing cultural perspectives, and economic inequities. I explore alternative approaches to heritage stewardship taken by British Columbia’s First Nations, and find they encourage a more inclusive and equitable alternative to the dominant heritage management system while protecting and sharing a past that continues to influence contemporary Indigenous life. Indigenous heritage stewardship policies endorse postcolonial methods that challenge the status quo and renew archaeology’s accountability to its various publics.
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