It’s a sad day for the Yale & District Historical Society (YDHS).
After 40 years of service, the Provincial Heritage Branch has removed YDHS as managers of Yale Historic Site as of Thursday (April 20). Instead, the site will now be managed by Forager Foundation, a Canadian organization which, in the Heritage Branch’s own words, has little experience managing heritage sites.
YDHS was informed of the transfer after the Heritage Branch said that their application, to re-tender their contract to manage the site, had been denied. Years ago, the site was sold to the B.C. government for $1 with a “good faith agreement” that YDHS would continue to manage it. However, at the end of 2022, YDHS was asked to re-tender their contract to continue managing the site.
According to YDHS in a press release, “the application process was based on a scoring system that was weighted most heavily on experience, and so – having managed the site for 40 years, and owning 95 per cent of the museum’s artifacts and historical information displays– we felt we were in a strong position. The application was also reviewed by a certified heritage professional prior to submission, who deemed it to be a strong application. We submitted several letters of support, including from Yale First Nation, Fraser Valley Regional District and Tourism Hope.”
Heritage Branch rejected their application a few weeks later. The site was given to the Foundation without any Indigenous consultation.
“There was absolutely no Indigenous consultation, which is required for such transactions or transfers of historical data and artifacts,” said Spuzzum First Nation Chief James Hobart in the press release. “This doesn’t have to include only First Nation items as all of the information is part of our collective history as well.”
Not much is known about the Forager Foundation. On their Facebook page, the Foundation says they are a nonprofit organization dedicated to “preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage through innovative community-driven projects in Canada and beyond.” According to Heritage Branch they were chosen for their experience in social media. A quick google search confirms that their Facebook page has 991 people following it with 986 likes. Their Instagram account has zero posts and 71 followers, and their Twitter account has 185 followers and was last updated six years ago.
As part of the transition period for the handover of the site management, Heritage Branch is offering to pay YDHS to ‘transfer knowledge’ about site management and building maintenance to the Foundation. Heritage Branch has also asked YDHS to consider selling or leasing their collection of artifacts to the Foundation, many of which includes items from Indigenous communities and families in the area.
YDHS has First Nations members on its board and among its membership. In the spirit of reconciliation, the government has agreed not to tell the story of First Nations.
In response, YDHS has issued a formal complaint to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Nick Grant, regarding the decision and the administration process of the tendering.