I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.
On April 10, 1997, the U.S. and Canada entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to protect archaeological and ethnological material that represents the Aboriginal cultural groups of Canada, as well as historic shipwrecks at least 250 years old.
The U.S. action was in response to a request from the Government of Canada made under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. (PDF)
In a reciprocal provision, Canada recognized the existence of U.S. laws that protect archaeological resources and Native American cultural items as well as historic shipwrecks. Canada agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Government in recovering such objects that have entered Canada illicitly.
II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement
The archaeological and ethnological heritage of Canada was found to be threatened by pillage to meet the demands of the trade in such materials. Import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for this pillage.
In addition to providing protection through import restrictions, a U.S.-Canada agreement would also advance the agenda of the 1994 Summit of the Americas, where governments in the Western Hemisphere pledged to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various collaborative means.
At its signing in April of 1997, the Agreement was seen as an expression of the common heritage that connects the two nations divided by a long, yet open, border. Both nations acknowledged a debt of gratitude to their Native peoples, and used the opportunity to honor their contributions by agreeing to protect the archaeological and ethnological material that represents this cultural heritage.
III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction
The Designated List (PDF) of object types from Canada restricted from importation was published by the Department of the Treasury in the Federal Register notice of April 22, 1997. The Agreement was in force until April 9, 2002, when it expired. At that time, there was evidence that Canada had the problem of pillage well under control, obviating the need to extend the Agreement.
While in force, the Agreement protected 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. Also included is non-Aboriginal archaeological material (250+ years old) 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.
IV. Import Restrictions
Between April 22, 1997, and April 9, 2002, an object from any category described in the Designated List could enter the U.S. only when accompanied by an export permit issued by Canada, or by documentation that it left Canada prior to the effective date of the restriction.
The Government of Canada, in accordance with its law, does not restrict the export of archaeological artifacts recovered less than 75 years after their loss, concealment, or abandonment. Canadian restrictions apply only to ethnological material that was made, reworked, or adapted for use by an Aboriginal person of Canada who is no longer living, that is greater than 50 years old, and that has a fair market value in Canada of more than $3,000 (Canadian). The U.S. import restriction, however, applied only to archaeological material more than 250 years old.
V. For More Information
United States: Cultural Heritage Center (email@example.com)
Canada: Movable Cultural Property Program
Department of Canadian Heritage
15 Eddy Street, 3rd Floor
Gatineau QC K1A 0M5
Telephone: (819) 997–7761
Toll Free: 1-866-811-0055
Fax: (819) 997–7757
Web site: http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/bcm-mcp/cntct/index-eng.cfm
Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.