SFN councillor Joanne Charles, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Coun. David Chesney listen to welcoming remarks from Chief Harley Chappell (Xwopokton) during an event on National Indigenous Peoples Day. (File photo)

White Rock apologizes to SFN for lost artifacts

‘Heartfelt regret’ extended during private ceremony Nov. 21

Officials with the City of White Rock and the White Rock Museum and Archives have apologized to the Semiahmoo First Nation for losing artifacts that were entrusted to the city in the 1970s for safe-keeping.

Thursday evening, the city and museum “shared our heartfelt regret in a ceremony that honours the traditions of the Semiahmoo First Nation,” Mayor Darryl Walker said in a news release.

According to the release, the SFN and museum made an agreement in the 1970s for the museum to manage artifacts from St. Anne’s Church.

“The artifacts were displayed for a number of years and then put into storage. It was discovered in the 1990s that the larger pieces, stored at Centennial Arena, were missing and could not be located,” the release states.

Coun. Helen Fathers told Peace Arch News Thursday afternoon, prior to the ceremony, that the items included benches and pews from the church, “and things (that) were important to Semiahmoo First Nation.”

Describing their loss as a “terrible, terrible mistake”– and emphasizing that the city is not casting blame –Fathers said that the items disappeared after the fire department at the time ordered them removed from Centennial Arena because they were a fire hazard.

READ MORE: City of White Rock, museum to apologize for loss of SFN artifacts

““We cannot replace the artifacts that have been lost, but we can treasure and protect the Semiahmoo First Nation artifacts in our care,” museum executive director Karin Bjerke-Lisle said in Friday’s release.

Rebuilding the city’s relations with the SFN is “an immediate priority of White Rock’s 2018-2022 Council Strategic Priorities,” the release adds. Those efforts to date have included five council-to-council meetings in 2019, and that representatives of the SFN are working with city staff to create a “Communication Protocol and Memorandum of Understanding.”

Chief Harley Chappell is also vice-chair of the city’s history and heritage advisory committee, the release adds.

Chappell said in the release that SFN leadership is “very pleased to begin a positive process solidified in ceremony and facilitated by the City of White Rock and the White Rock Museum and Archives.”

“Our ceremonies are the foundation to reconciling unfortunate, historic wrongs. The Semiahmoo people are invested in, and excited about, a renewed relationship both with the City of White Rock and with the White Rock Museum and Archives.”

Thursday’s ceremony was a private event for which the museum received a grant from the provincial government to host, Fathers said.

– with files from Aaron Hinks

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