UTM’s Special Advisor on Indigenous Rematriation
To the UTM Community:
I’m delighted to announce that Dr. Robin R.R. Gray, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, has accepted the position as UTM’s first-ever Special Advisor on Indigenous Rematriation. This position emerges through the collaborative leadership of UTM’s Indigenous Table, which continues to guide our campus’s work towards reconciliation and right relations.
Prof. Gray will focus on the living history of a collection of Indigenous artefacts from the excavated Antrex Village site in Mississauga, now housed in UTM’s Department of Anthropology. Building reciprocal relations with Indigenous communities, Prof. Gray will develop a plan for these artefacts’ safekeeping that confronts colonial harms and centres Indigenous protocols and laws.
This work has deep significance locally, enabling UTM to live central values of our Strategic Framework and honour the calls of Wecheehetowin. It also has special urgency nationally, given that Canadian museums hold more than 6.5M artefacts from Indigenous nations—and that Canada lacks a single federal policy or law to guide these objects’ return. Call 67 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission requires that Canada develop best practices for heritage institutions, including for their restoration of Indigenous cultural property.
Prof. Gray hopes to model at UTM some of the positive changes Canadians need to make toward reconciliation. That change will, as Prof. Gray puts it, say yes to Indigenous law, politics, and nationhood, embracing the significance of Indigenous artefacts both as property relations and as agents of healing and community. It might also open the possibility for future UTM-based work on rematriation, including opportunities for student learning, experiential education, and Indigenous Studies.
Prof. Gray is ideally positioned to lead this initiative. She has analyzed repatriation processes worldwide and developed and implemented rematriation paradigms. She leads a song rematriation case study connected to Columbia University and other institutions in Canada and the United States, and has published extensively on rematriation’s importance for decolonial futures, on which she focuses in her current book. She has also developed reciprocal partnerships between universities and Indigenous communities, including as a primary investigator and collaborator on two SSHRC-funded grants about the preservation and ownership of Indigenous cultural heritage.
Please join me in congratulating Prof. Gray on her position—and in thanking her for taking on this important work. I look forward to supporting her as she realizes priorities at the core of our Strategic Framework: truth, reciprocity, Indigenization, and reconciliation.
Vice-President & Principal
University of Toronto Mississauga