Can the damages of colonial power in museums be reversed?

Museums continue to hoard the history of colonized countries

Since 1802, the Rosetta Stone has been on display in the British Museum after being taken from Egypt during Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation. 

The Rosetta Stone, along with thousands of stolen historical artifacts, is symbolic of the long lasting effects of colonialism still being suffered today. It serves as a reminder of the ways colonialism lives on, and how museums promote it through their unethical practices.   

The Stone is inscribed with text from three different languages: Ancient Greek, Demotic, and Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time, unlocking a plethora of new information about Ancient Egypt. 

Two hundred years later, Egypt still suffers the loss of this piece of their history. It makes me rethink how these stolen artifacts and colonizer attitudes disrupt national identity and pride. 

Last year, Egyptologist Dr. Monica Hanna launched a petition urging the public to speak up for the artifact to be returned. Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archeologist and former minister of state for antique affairs, has been working tirelessly since 2002 to repatriate stolen artifacts and put an end to the unethical purchasing of artifacts by museums. 

The Concordian spoke with University of Southern California researcher Jumana Behbahani about the Rosetta Stone being kept in the British Museum. She criticized the display as a result of a history of cultural violence: British visitors can celebrate a piece of history as if it’s their own, while Egyptians remain stripped of their accessibility to a vital piece of their history.

“Keeping these artifacts in western countries, in a way, represents the ways in which these countries stripped the areas they colonized of their respective cultures.” 

As social historian and Concordia professor Dr. Lucie Laumonier noted, “Back then, Egypt was culturally plundered and its stolen historical artifacts inundated the European markets […] the return of the Rosetta Stone to Egypt would be a way, from the English side, to acknowledge this colonial cultural plunder.” 

However, some have argued that the British Museum is the best location for the Rosetta Stone, claiming that Egypt is a vital part of European heritage, and crediting European historians with deciphering the Stone which would have otherwise not been possible.

Dr. Laumonier criticizes this line of thinking. “The people who belong to the country from which artifacts were stolen during the colonial times deserve as much, if not more, to be able to access these artifacts,” she said. “Historical artifacts are essential in asserting national identity and pride, and to be aware of one’s history.”  

Along with that, many of the artifacts in the British Museum’s possession were taken forcibly, and nearly all of them aren’t even on display but are instead kept in the museum’s private archives that the public doesn’t have access to. 

The British Museum is no unique case of the capitalist incentive of museums profiting from colonial power. The idea of displaying historically significant artifacts somewhere other than their country of origin seems inherently colonialist, especially when it signifies a period of struggle and war crimes. 

Museums such as The Getty in Los Angeles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,  the Louvre in Paris, and the Humboldt Forum in Berlin are notorious for hoarding looted artifacts and claiming entitlement over them because they are “the spoils of war.” This doctrine, however, has been rejected by international law. 

These museums can look to other institutions for compromises over stolen artifacts. 

Museums around the world have displayed efforts of decolonization, unveiling possibilities of engaging with colonized communities with their permission and respect granted. For example, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago invited Indigenous artists to showcase their work in their Native American galleries. Indigenous communities can be celebrated and studied without taking away from them. 

The Australian Museum in Sydney rethought its relationship to the artifacts in their museum when they shifted ownership of the artifacts to the “custodians of those collections, with an obligation to the peoples who created the objects and stories, and to their descendants,” as stated by former Museum Director Frank Howarth. 

The display of these artifacts appears enriching and informative to its visitors, but when the items are a byproduct of cultural violence, charging people to come see them is exploitative in its nature. The Rosetta Stone should be housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where Egyptian people can celebrate and engage with their history and culture. It belongs to them and not strictly to those who have the luxury of flying to London and visiting the British Museum. 

The British Museum has been called upon multiple times to return The Rosetta Stone, but have yet to respond to requests.
The matter extends beyond the value of a tangible object; it’s a concern of national identity being stripped away in the name of colonialism. The Stone symbolizes the colonized world and its relationship to the colonizer, one that arguably still exists.


Northern Perspectives: The Agreement that Changed It All

Podcast Producer Cedric Gallant dives into the deep history behind the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), where the Crees and Inuit went head-to-head against the Government of Quebec.


Paving the way to Indigenizing Concordia

“These Indigenous teachers, they’ve overcome all those barriers all through their lives, in high school and going through university,” said Director of Concordia First Peoples Studies, Cathy Richardson/Kinewesquao. “It shows that they’ve really advanced themselves through education and they are ready to step up, and take on these leadership roles.”

In January, Concordia became the first university in Quebec to offer an Indigenous program, strictly taught by Indigenous people.

The First Peoples Studies, which was created nearly a decade ago, currently has 117 students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The program, which includes courses on language, culture and history, offers knowledge on Indigenous social and political issues.

While it used to be only Richardson/Kinewesquao, Dr. Louellyn White, a Mohawk woman from Akwesasne and Dr. Elizabeth Fast, with Métis and Mennonite ancestry teaching, the FPST program can now count three new Indigenous part-time teachers and two Indigenous teaching assistants.

When Richardson/Kinewesquao was hired last June, part of her mission was to Indigenize Concordia.

“What we typically find in universities are scholars, anthropologists, historians with different backgrounds teaching about Indigenous people,” she said. “What we want are Indigenous people with their own life experiences, with their people and community, with an Indigenous worldview and perspective. We want them to teach, because the pedagogy and delivery are also Indigenous, not just the content, to get away from that; not to only talk about them, but to teach about me, and us and we.”

This change also came as a result of many complaints from students, but also from across the board, said Richardson/Kinewesquao.

“We had quite a lot of complaints in the past about teaching style or things a teacher said, not knowing they weren’t saying the right thing,” she said. “But you don’t know what you don’t know. I do think the complaints, from an Indigenous point of view, were justified. I met with students and heard what wasn’t going well, but it takes time and we are trying.”

Autumn Godwin, a student in the FPST program, has experienced first-hand the lack of Indigenous teachers and the colonial roots of the curriculum within the department.

“[Indigenous faculty and staff] are an amazing team, super supportive but they’re stretched thin,” said Godwin. “I’m grateful for Concordia doing this, I just wish to see that we have a little bit more support when it comes to having more land-based programs and bringing in more future [scholar] talks but again, we’re stretched thin.”

One of the things that Richardson/Kinewesquao is currently working on, from now until the summer, is reviewing the FPST curriculum. The department created a review committee, with all but one member being Indigenous.

“The world turns, it’s really different than what it was 10 years ago,” she said. “We need to have more courses on land rights, on LGBTQ2+ (Two Spirits) issues. We need to talk more about the ceremonies, the environment and human rights.”

Universities across Canada have been responding to calls for action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, but having a university as supportive as Concordia makes a difference, Richardson/Kinewesquao believes.

“When I started, I had a community already. I had the people from the Aboriginal Students Research Centre, I got Donna Goodleaf in the Teaching and Learning Centre, and Manon Tremblay in Indigenous Direction. The people in the School of Community and Public Affairs are very helpful and supportive, even the Dean has been very supportive of me, so I feel like I’m well held-up and it’s gonna be okay moving ahead. But it’s always going to be slow when you work in a big institution, in a big university, we have lots of little barriers to overcome.”


During an event titled Four Directional – Four-Chair Panel hosted as part of First Voices Week on Feb. 4, students, Indigenous elders and faculty discussed how colonialism is still prevalent in education today and how it continues to affect both students’ and educators’ lives.

Many will find out, to their dismay, that despite Concordia’s most significant efforts to decolonize its curriculum, the school remains subject to a sizable amount of criticism, which universities face nationwide.

“Indigenizing the curriculum [at Concordia] benefits both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students,” said Director of Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy, Donna Kahérakwas Goodleaf. “Every student can gain from an enriched educational experience.”

Goodleaf, who recently served as Concordia’s interim senior director of Indigenous directions, is now in charge of advising and making suggestions to faculty on how they can integrate the recommendations set out in the IDAP, which emerged in 2019 in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

She stresses that students need to be the ones to ask themselves what kind of education they want to receive, emphasizing that they have more power than they realize, and that they have to “take ownership of [their] educational curriculum.”

“I think it’s great, especially for the Haudenosaunee class where you have a Haudenosaunee woman teaching it,” said Godwin. “You have that matrimonial aspect that’s included as well.”

Although much progress has been made in the FPST program, a significant amount of work remains in other faculty departments.

“I’m getting all these invitations now from these different faculties,” said Goodleaf. “But I’m like an after-thought.” She paused as the audience took this information in; a remark that left the room in breathless silence. Goodleaf went on to say that in order to decolonize these events, Indigenous peoples have to be invited to participate in their creation.

The director emphasized that including the voices of First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit on every level is crucial in order to decolonize academia––in other words, an invitation will not be sufficient.

Elder Vicky Boldo, from the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre, said that, like Goodleaf, she too noticed that faculty members would invite her to events but would never involve her in the actual planning of the event. Boldo, who is an adoptee from the ‘60s Scoop Era, pointed out that her Cree/Métis heritage did not make her a “spokesperson for multiculturalism,” and that faculty members should consider doing more than just inviting Indigenous peoples to fill seats.





Text by Virginie Ann & Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Graphic by Florence Yee



The Tropic of X demands you to open your eyes

Caridad Svich’s bold dreamscape shatters preconceptions

Stepping into the theatre feels personal. You are a guest in experiences that may or may not parallel your own. If one thing’s for certain, it is the fact that you are a tourist here, and the people on the stage will not let you forget that. They know you are watching them. You are a temporary voyeur, and they strive to make you uncomfortable.

Initially premiering in Germany in 2007, Montreal’s Centaur Theatre hosts The Tropic of X, written by Caridad Svich and directed by Sophie Gee. The play follows lovers Maura (Arlen Aguayo) and Mori (Braulio Elicer) “in a touristed wasteland at the end of the alphabet.” When people sweep things under the rug, this is where the crumbs go. Welcome to under the rug.

The characters stare back at you and snicker as you seat yourself. They sit, legs dangling, on a graffiti-covered wall. They judge you. Behind them are mountains of trash loosely stuffed into transparent plastic bags. All the waste is laid out for you to see. There is nowhere to hide here. The play charges forward with blatant and unabashed honesty.

The characters speak at you. They do not lean on props. They have themselves; their bodies and tongues have become their instruments. Their words are concise and ruthless. The protagonists, Maura and Mori, move about this world erratically, characterized by simulated mania and essential codependency. Together they swirl in an ever-evolving landscape littered with cultural leftovers so generously donated by the American Dream.

“The language of the colonizer creates the most complete and effective of prisons, the prison which controls thought and expression.”

The program quotes theatrologist, Marvin Carlson, who wrote about the play in his paper, Which Language Do They Want Me To Speak?. Carlson emphasizes that while the characters speak in “la lingua franca,” a bridge-language between two groups that do not share a mother tongue, their words do not belong to the Indigenous languages of the land they live on. Rather, they speak a pidgin of Spanish and English––languages imported and imposed by colonizers.

The Tropic of X confronts colonialism, capitalism and consumerism through aggressive poetry and whispered pillow talk. It’s mesmerizing. It’s romantic. And yet, it is impossible to forget that this is a love story about getting lost and sinking into a reality that eats you up and sucks the marrow from your bones.

This play demands your respect. It’s heavy, raw and impossible to preface because when you buy a ticket, you are paying to be screamed at. You are going to listen to a love story filled to the brim with disgust, broken promises, and disappointment so ingrained in society that it has become commonplace. The characters fight pernicious hopes that poison their minds with insidious notions of better tomorrows.

Svich creates a narrative that asks us to look at what we have done. They ask us to question problems that were never meant to be solved, that have been perpetuated since their origin. In a blog post about The Tropic of X  with Associate Artist Cristina Cugliandro, they write: “The play itself – how it is written – is an act of resistance.” Svich reminds us with every sharp word that this is not just a story.

This is today. This is yesterday. The Tropic of X is still bitterly relevant 13 years later.  



For tickets,




Illustration by Sarah Gonzales, Courtesy of Erin Lindsay

Student Life

Slice of Life: Letter from Morocco

Keeping up with friends while abroad

Dear Katy,

There is so much I wish I could write to you—but where do I even start? I know it’s my fault for not taking the time to write to you more often. I’ve been busy trying to absorb all the tomorrows filled with even more stories than the yesterdays. But as I sit in a rattling bus taking me from Marrakesh deep into the Atlas Mountains—where I plan to wander in Amazigh villages—my thoughts run wild and I feel the need to write to you.

The landscape is truly unbelievable. It’s a mix of infinite mountain peaks and barren valleys. The sun heats up the bus, and I keep exchanging sighs of desperation with others who are clearly more patient and used to this weather. Yet, they’re amused to see me, this young woman traveling alone. It seems as though my every move is meticulously tracked, or maybe I’m just self-absorbed. I stumble through discussions, trying to squeeze in the few words of Morocco’s Arabic dialect, Darija, that I’ve learned here and there. As I travel through the north, I feel as though I only catch a glimpse of people’s lives: men far away guiding their flocks of sheep and kids begging as they reach out to the bus windows. Then the road turns, and the kids are replaced with a view of the imposing ksour, an ancient mud and clay village. While the remaining castles have been wrecked by time, they are architectural masterpieces in my eyes. These images feel surreal, as though from a movie that I will never get to view entirely.

While I’m escaping the calmness of Rabat to take a break from my studies, I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned here. There’s something really overwhelming—and powerful—about witnessing the extent of class disparity, colonial repercussions, and developmental challenges—realities I’ve only encountered surrounded by four walls in an air-conditioned classroom. While on my way to Marrakesh a few days ago, when I looked away from the window, even for a minute, the metallic slums transformed into unblemished, renovated buildings. The two worlds are so disconnected from each other that the bridges—both old and new—connecting them feel strangely simple. The disparity became even clearer to me as I witnessed an old shepherd wearing a brown djellaba—the traditional robe—slowly crossing the road with his sheep, while an expensive-looking sports car zoomed by. Morocco’s inconsistent realities are indisputable. La calèche d’un bord, et le pétrole de l’autre.

I’m starting to see a paradoxical world here in Morocco, where values clash with beliefs and actions. Sometimes, men welcome me, feed me and discuss politics and religion with me, while their own mothers and daughters sit quietly without access to education nor the need for it, according to those same men. I am allowed to do and say as I please, but I’m shown the charming side of a place whose people are secretly choking from the inside out. My foreign naivety is entirely gone now, and I am very grateful for it. I have a feeling this journey will change my stance towards this asymmetric country.

I hope the winter isn’t too harsh on you.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. You know that night…I did get on the back of that stranger’s motorcycle in Marrakesh. Ha!

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Editorial: Hideous figures in history must be taken down

You’ve probably heard of the debates surrounding whether or not certain statues of historical figures should continue to be proudly displayed. The reason for removing these statues is often that they’re celebrating historical figures that promoted and perpetuated oppression. Take the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald in Montreal’s Place du Canada, for example. Just last week, a group identifying itself as part of #MacdonaldMustFall drenched the statue in red paint, according to the Montreal Gazette.

In a statement, the group said, “Macdonald statues should be removed from public space and instead placed in archives or museums, where they belong as historical artifacts.” Similarly, the statue of Queen Victoria in front of McGill’s Schulich School of Music was coated in green paint on Sunday, according to the Montreal Gazette. An anti-colonial group called the Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade said it was responsible. In a statement published online, the group said, “the presence of Queen Victoria statues in Montreal is an insult to the struggles of self-determination and resistance of oppressed peoples around the world, including the Indigenous nations of North America (Turtle Island) and Oceania, as well as the peoples of Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and wherever the British Empire committed its atrocities.”

We at The Concordian  strongly agree with groups like #MacdonaldMustFall and the Delhi-Dublin Anti-Colonial Solidarity Brigade. Proudly displaying figures like Queen Victoria and Sir John A. Macdonald means praising their actions––actions which, in reality, are nothing to be proud of. As most know, Sir John A. Macdonald was a part of the approval of the first residential schools in Canada, according to Global News. He set up treaties with Indigenous Peoples and broke them, and starved thousands who lived on reserves, according to the same source. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) has called him the “architect of genocide against Indigenous Peoples.”

To this day, many of the struggles Indigenous communities face in Canada can be seen as results of Macdonald’s legacy. How can we praise a leader who helped create these hardships? The same goes for Queen Victoria––how can we praise a leader who perpetuated oppression for so many around the world? How can we support colonialism, imperialism and repression of self-determination?

The answer is, we can’t. And we won’t.

We at The Concordian support groups who dedicate their lives to combating and resisting against symbols of oppression––symbols like statues, plaques or any other form of commemorating a hideous figure in history. The call to remove these statues reminds us of another event two years ago, where counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia clashed with white supremacists who were protesting against the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E. Lee. The protest turned violent, with a car ploughing into the crowd of anti-racist and anti-fascist protestors, killing one and injuring 19 others, according to Al Jazeera.

We at The Concordian believe statues of oppressive historical figures is one of the many ways white supremacy is still upheld in our society. We’re proud to see groups and people that fight against this in proactive ways, by choosing to attend anti-racism protests. We must remain vigilant, and we must become more outspoken against all forms of oppression. For those who think this is an old conversation, it’s too close to home for us to turn a blind eye—our current CAQ government is playing a role in upholding racist ideologies, by establishing values tests and French-language tests for immigrants. Canada’s complicit too—Barbara Perry, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and an expert on hate groups in Canada, believes between 120-130 hate groups exist in Canada today, according to Al Jazeera.

Some of these hateful people exist online, in the darkest corners of the internet and some even in broad daylight on Facebook comments and Twitter threads. Others form and join far-right groups like La Meute in Quebec, the Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin and anti-immigrant group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA). Perry told Al Jazeera that this onslaught of hate groups is “a unique era in our history.”

Unique, indeed. Uniquely terrifying, wrong and downright disgusting. We at The Concordian fiercely denounce all oppressive acts, figures and groups. We stand by those who fight against this systematic oppression and white supremacy that continues to see the light of day in our society.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

Uncovering Indigenous knowledge in nature

Two students explore the history of Montreal’s First Nations in the Botanical Garden

The Olympic Stadium looms in the background as snow slowly falls on The First Nations Garden. Part of the Montreal Botanical Garden, the installation was founded in 2001 with the help of Innu singer Florent Vollant. While the rest of Montreal resembles any other North American metropolis, the garden is one of the few spaces in the city that still honours its Indigenous history. However, the relationship between Indigenous knowledge and urban spaces is much more complex than a single spot in the middle of the city.

According to the Espace pour la vie Montréal website, the garden is intended to represent the knowledge of Montreal First Nations. “Native people were ecologists before the term was ever coined,” the website reads. “Over time, they acquired an intimate knowledge of nature, knowing exactly where in its natural habitat to find a particular plant to meet a specific need.” This knowledge has been suppressed by settlers’s hegemonic education system that values European traditions and actively subordinates Indigenous knowledge in the process. This settler legacy is reflected in the way the city is designed; there is a lack of visual indication that Montreal is on unceded land.

The Olympic Stadium looms in the background of the First Nations Garden. Photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin.

The Olympic Stadium, which stands directly beside the garden, is quite indicative of the city’s priorities. The stadium is a representation of the way Montreal sought to attract visitors, grow its economy and give the city international recognition—during the Olympics, all eyes were on Montreal. The economic benefits of the stadium did not necessarily go according to plan, with maintenance costing millions of dollars, making the stadium a financial burden. According to CBC, the project cost taxpayers more than $1.5 billion dollars, despite the fact that then-mayor Jean Drapeau said there would be no deficit.

Photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin.

The Saint Lawrence River also suffers. Mohawks, or Kanien’keh, have a special tie to the river; it is a place for traditional fishing, which provides people with a constant source of sustenance. Despite this, the Saint Lawrence is polluted and uncared for. In an interview with the CBC, Eric Kanatakeniate McComber, a local traditional fisherman, spoke about the state of the river, saying “People are so detached from the river now, they only notice it when they go over the bridge or to go to the movies. We were people of the river here, before the seaway was made 60 years ago. People used to live and fish off that river.”

This is why the First Nations Garden is important—it is a physical space that represents knowledge that has long been suppressed in Montreal. The garden provides information about plants, crafts and activities that various First Nations around Montreal continue to practice and engage with. Plaques around the garden inform visitors of the traditions and practices of various tribes. One plaque explains the differences between the canoe bark of each of the Nations; Malecite canoes have very elaborate decorations, while the Cree canoe is more rough. Birchbark was also used to make baskets and decoys with designs inspired by plants and animals, sometimes with a geometric flare.

Photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin.

The organizers and builders of the garden consulted with various First Nations about what to include in it. One of these features is a sweat lodge, a structure made for a ritual meant to cleanse the mind and spirit, while also serving as a rite of passage. It is said that sweat lodges are also used in a ceremony to transition from one life stage to another. According to one of the plaques, from the mid 1800s until 1951, the Canadian government banned the use of sweat lodges, which affected the dissemination of traditions in many Indigenous communities. The garden’s designers decided to include a sweat lodge in order to provide a space to alleviate the stresses that Indigenous people face.

Inside a sweat lodge. Photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin.

Mohawk elder Sedalia Fazio conducts the sweat lodge ceremonies in the garden. Fazio is outspoken when it comes to the violence that Indigenous people face. At a recent public inquiry for mistreatment of Indigenous people in Quebec, she condemned the not-guilty ruling of the killing of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.

In the city, places like the First Nations Garden are reflections of how Indigenous spaces are distinct and cordoned off, instead of being incorporated into the population’s everyday life. The colonial impact on Montreal is felt everyday, but is practically invisible to settlers. For example: Montreal’s streets are named after colonial explorers and officials. This city sits on unceded Indigenous territory, yet there are many representations of European colonialism, and very little of Indigenous peoples. According to Francis Adyanga Akena, a professor of education who studied the relationship between colonialism and the production of Indigenous knowledge in Uganda, Western education systems devalue Indigenous knowledge. This stifles the growth and emancipation of Indigenous knowledge in society as a whole, and within Indigenous communities as well.

Cattails, or passwekenak in Algonquin and pisekan in Attikamek, are commonly used as a remedy by the Algonquin people. Photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin.

At a time when we are finally beginning to acknowledge the cultural, ecological and spiritual value of Indigenous peoples, it is crucial to also question the European foundation of Montreal.

By fostering more Indigenous places in cities, like the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal and the First Nation Garden, we can challenge the hegemony of European settler values and knowledge systems.

Story and photos by Hussain Almahr and Maria Lucia Albarracin

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