Statia Heritage Research Commission officially installed
The Statia Heritage Research Commission (SHRC) has officially been installed on Friday, September 17th, 2021. The commission consisting of 15 members will focus on two key points. One is to evaluate the Golden Rock burial ground and to make recommendations on how to continue with this specific project. In addition, SHCR will provide community and expert opinions on cultural heritage research practices on Statia including recommendations for changes as required by international standards.
SHRC was initiated in July 2021 and started preparations in response to the public criticisms of current heritage research practices and the recent Golden Rock Burial Ground excavation of enslaved Africans.
With the formal decree designated last Friday, September 17th, SHRC consists of 15 members, including 5 Statian Community leaders and 10 Caribbean professionals from six countries. The Chair of the SHRC is Dr. Jay Haviser. He was selected primarily due to his position as President of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology (IACA), and his decades of experience in the Netherlands Caribbean.
The first actions of SHRC included the set-up of the commission members and the compilation of issues to be dealt with. The second phase of the SHRC is currently underway, with four separate sub-groups within the SHRC, each having represented a Statia Community leader, an anthropologist, an archaeologist and a heritage specialist. These four sub-groups will assess the situation and will prepare separate evaluations. All four statements will be brought together in a final evaluation document.
A key aspect of the procedural revision recommendations will be to bring the Statia Government up to date with international standards for the handling of human remains and archaeological research. Within international standards (re. IACA, NAGPRA, etc.) the Ancestral Community related to any human burials has priority for research and excavation decisions regarding their ancestors. This involves both initial approval for research and inclusion of the Community in all phases of the archaeological research of their ancestor's remains. An initial role of the SHRC is to determine if these professional practices were conducted appropriately at the Golden Rock Burial Ground excavations by research contractors for SECAR.
Second and third phase
The second and more significant role of the SHRC is to propose concise recommendations for revisions in government practice and the implementation of international standards for heritage research of ancestral burials on Statia (and the BES islands). It is most beneficial when both community voice and scientific data collection can work together with mutual respect for those ancestors being studied. The SHRC recommendations will include the priority role of the Community Voice in heritage research, the appropriate policies for handling of artifact collections and the re-burial of human remains. The advice will also include practical revisions for research responsibilities, including participation with thorough Community engagement.
During the third phase the SHRC will organize a local Statia Community Inquiry for public opinions on this sensitive issue. A potential Round Table will be planned for public discussion later in the year. The final report of SHRC is scheduled to be submitted to the Statia Government at the end of 2021.