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Rematriation—a play on the term “repatriation”—is increasingly used by Indigenous women as a rallying cry for the restoration of Indigenous lands and lifeways. As an Indigenous feminist concept, it also celebrates the leadership and labor of Indigenous women, and acknowledges their important role in matrilineal societies. Drawing from my auto-ethnographic research on embodied heritage reclamation in Ts’msyen society, and community-based research to repatriate Ts’msyen songs from archives, I apply rematriation as a paradigm, and offer protocol as an analytic, for understanding the poetics and politics of Indigenous return. That is, how does the Indigenous feminist concept of rematriation recast questions of ownership, access and control, and Indigenous law, property and nationhood on new terms?
Dr. Robin R. R. Gray is Ts’msyen and Mikisew Cree, and an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research centers primarily on the politics of Indigeneity in settler colonial contexts such as Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia. Dr. Gray’s current research projects focus on the repatriation of Ts’msyen songs from archives, and foundational issues related to the preservation, management, ownership, access and control of Indigenous cultural heritage. She is working on a book manuscript titled, Rematriation: Indigenous Law, Property and Nationhood. In it she is analyzing various forms of Indigenous repatriation to interrogate the colonial power dynamics engendered by the transformation of Indigenous cultural heritage into the property of people, states and institutions unrelated to the source community. Theoretically, it necessarily confronts the contested sites of archives, museums, law, ethnographic collecting practices, cultural appropriation, collective memory, intellectual property issues, and Indigenous rights, while it also disrupts totalizing discourses of Indigeneity, nationhood, property and heritage—including the concept of repatriation itself.