Comments on the SHRC Report on the Golden Rock Excavation, St Eustatius
This blog post is a commentary on the SHRC Report (for which I was interviewed, at my own request) about the Golden Rock excavation on St Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean (at which I was unfortunately employed). All opinions are mine and I do not claim to represent anyone else. But I do hope that I can answer some of the many questions that you may still have. More information on the context of this blog post can be found in the Statia Government link at the bottom of the page, where you can also read the SHRC Report.
Before I get started, I should address something that I’m sure people familiar with my work will be wondering; namely, how I got involved in a project that departed so severely from my ideals. The short answer to this is that upon arriving and discovering the situation on the ground, I could not leave because I had signed a contract. Please be assured that I (along with several other team members) was advocating for change from inside the project. That we were unsuccessful is evidence of the fact that the problems in heritage management on Statia are systemic, rather than down to just one person whose mind can be changed. I hope the SHRC has more power to change the situation than we did.
Regarding the report, I should first say that I agree with the broad conclusions of the SHRC and am pleased that they have set out some concrete recommendations for the Statia Government to follow.
Secondly, I really appreciate the effort the SHRC has put into gauging the opinions of Statian people for this report. Essentially, they conclude that Statian people are interested in heritage and want to be consulted about it. This was something we already knew, but it is nice to have figures.
Thirdly, I should note that on page 18 the report suggests that I agreed that SECAR was not responsible for community engagement. In fact, although I confirmed that this was indeed what SECAR thought, I certainly did not support their viewpoint. I believe that SECAR, as the heritage authority for Statia, had a responsibility to ensure that the appropriate community consultation took place.
Fourthly, I should mention that I am spearheading the working group that wrote the IACA Code of Ethics whose section on human remains is quoted in the SHRC report on pages 28 to 31. This Code of Ethics has not been ratified yet and is still in development. If you have any comments on it, please do get in touch ASAP. It can still change.
Fifthly, the new Code of Ethics on human remains that has been developed by the SHRC is a good start, but I strongly suggest that future drafts of these guidelines are reviewed by professional bioanthropologists - both Caribbean bioanthropologists and members of the Dutch Association for Physical Anthropology (since St Eustatius is a special municipality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).
Lastly, I thank the SHRC for their hard work and congratulate them on a document that is the first step along a path towards real change in heritage management on St Eustatius.
Dr Felicia J Fricke
12th February 2022
Statia Heritage Research Commission (SHRC) Report
Dutch Association for Physical Anthropology (NVFA)
International Association for Caribbean Archaeology (IACA) Code of Ethics