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Reflections: What interest groups or networks of significance exist in Yukon? What issues have they identified as significant?

As part of my pre-interview reflections for the Dawson City Museum (DCM) Project, this post considers: 

What interest groups or networks of significance exist and what issues have they identified as significant?

Like the posts on ideas and institutions, this post is a preliminary reflection that will evolved as I do interviews. In particular, I suspect there are more local networks that I have not adequately considered and/or networks of relevance related to community museums’ roles as tourist institutions in Yukon. 

I have organized this post in terms of jurisdiction.

National

Instead of considering the federal government exclusively, I have decided to incorporate the idea of nation to nation in my research. From now on, I will consider both the “Canadian government” and First Nations as national jurisdictions.

Yukon First Nations

First Nations’ Cultural Centers (such as, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in what is now Dawson City) receive funding under the Yukon Government’s museum operational funding program. However, these institutions are distinct from community museums.

The differences begin with the distinct settler-based and Yukon First Nations’ conceptions of heritage. A Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in document states:

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in have a broad definition and perception of what heritage is and what it includes. Heritage is not something from the past, but a way of life reflected in the beliefs, values, knowledge, and practices passed from generation to generation. Heritage permeates all aspects of First Nation lives, communities, and governance. It includes much more than the material remains that are left behind. These heritage resources are understood as physical reminders of what is truly important.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department 2011, 8

I do not know how the Cultural Centers began receiving funding under the museum program (yet). However, Umbrella Final Agreement (1993) mandated a more equitable distribution of Yukon Government program dollars related to heritage resource management. The agreement states:

As the Heritage Resources of Yukon Indian People are underdeveloped relative to non-Indian Heritage Resources, priority in the allocation of Government program resources available from time to time for Yukon Heritage Resources development and management shall, where practicable, be given to the development and management of Heritage Resources of Yukon Indian People, until an equitable distribution of program resources is achieved.

13.4.1

Considering the Umbrella Agreement, I believe advocacy around heritage resource management is likely of significance to community museum policy development.

However, in a post on interest groups and advocacy, I am struggling with who and what I should consider here. I think the problem is that I should have included a section titled “First Nations – Territorial” in my post on institutions. The intersections between First Nations and the territorial government are relevant. As such, moving forward, I will more actively consider these intersections.

In terms of advocacy groups of interest to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in or Yukon First Nation heritage resource management more broadly, I don’t know where to look.

Are there advocacy groups at this level that I should consider? Since I am consider a settler institution, what is the relevance of advocacy to this jurisdiction? Moving forward, this is something I will be asking in interviews (when appropriate).

Federal

When I interviewed the Canadian Museums Association’s (CMA) Executive Director (now retired) as part of my PhD research in 2018, he emphasized the significance of the Association’s advocacy role.

Reflecting the importance of that role, the CMA has a webpage (very helpfully) titled “advocacy,” which draws attention to the issues they have identified as significant. These issues include:

Advocacy for the development of a renewed national museum policy is of particular importance and has been a component of the CMA’s advocacy work for about 20 years.

National – Territorial

First Nation – Territorial

I suspect the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association will become relevant here. However, at the moment, I do not know and cannot find anything of relevance online.

Federal – Territorial

Screenshot of the YHMA logo

The territorial museum association is the Yukon Historical and Museums Association (YHMA or, confusingly, Heritage Yukon on their website). Importantly, the subnational associations are often involved in the national association’s advocacy. For example, the YHMA’s name is on a CMA news release (here) asking for a review of national museum policy, increased funding, and simplified applications for small museums.

Screenshot of the BC Museums Association logo

There is also collaboration between subnational associations. For example, the YHMA made a joint submission (here) with the BC Museums Association (BCMA) for the federal budget consultations. Their concerns included:

  • Pandemic relief
  • Increased federal funding
  • A national museums policy that complies with UNDRIP

Territorial

Yukon had its most recent territorial election in 2021. I cannot find an advocacy paper from the YHMA for the election. However, they asked the parties questions about heritage and posted the answers (here). The questions suggest that the YHMA concerns are:

I was a little surprised at the limited about of advocacy or training information for museums on the YHMA website. My surprise may be unfair and a function of having studied the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) so recently. The OMA is an association for a subnational region with more museums, meaning it has more capacity. 

That being said, it is also possible the YHMA functions like a historical society with a museums committee rather than a museums association. I am currently reading the YHMA newsletters from the late 70s to the 90s and these documents remind me of the Ontario Historical Society’s (OHS) work. The OHS has a museums committee and does work to support its members who are museums. However, both the YHMA and OHS have a broad focus and expend efforts on issues like cemetery preservation and circulating research on the history of the region. The broad focus means their limited capacity is not always devoted to museum issues. I am excited to learn more and expand on this idea as I do research.

Local

The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) seems to be a significant interest group for the tourism sector at a local level. In Dawson City, heritage organizations (e.g., Parks Canada, the DCM) are extremely important members of this sector (e.g., the DCM Executive Director is also a member of the KVA Board). However, I have not yet found relevant advocacy documents to use in my analysis.

This points to broader research gaps that I hope to fill – that is, local level advocacy work and work related to museums as tourist organizations.

Summary

Museums (or, I should say, their associations) want a new museum policy at both the national and territorial level. Another common concern includes the need for more money (in normal times and covid times).

Questions

What interest groups should I consider in addition to museum associations?

My next question is part of a broader area of confusion for me. People in the cultural sector often ask for an articulated and comprehensive policy document. However, I am not convinced that policy articulations – that is, a document called “museum policy” or “cultural policy” – will actually lead to more secure or increased support for a few reasons:

The Museums Assistance Program (MAP), a main funding source for Canada’s museums, has seen a consistent decline in funding since being introduced in 1972. In 1977, MAP funding reached its highest level with a program budget that was $15 million 1, valued at $63 million today when adjusted for inflation. The Program’s budget in 2016-17 was $16.2 million, 74% lower than in 1977 

source

In my opinion, the creation of programs and their annual budgets (cuts or increases) create more significant changes than policy documents (which, as seen in Ontario, the next party in power can ignore). Here is an example of what I mean:

So, I am genuinely curious. Why do these interest groups pursue policy articulations so persistently?

For example, museum support is historical tied to tourism funding in Yukon. Why not lean into that? I assume an increase in operational funding = the most helpful thing the Yukon government could do for community museums, which would lead to a better product that supports tourism and encourages tourists to stay in Yukon longer.

What do you think? Is arguing for a policy an effective approach? 

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