(Left to Right) Manitoba Museum Indigenous Advisory Circle: Fred Ford, President/Board Chair, Manitoba Inuit Association, Inuit; Elder Joe Hyslop, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, Lac Brochet, Northlands First Nation, Denesouline; Sophia Rabliauskas, Teacher, Poplar River Elementary School, Anishinaabekwe, Poplar River; Dr. Cary Miller, Associate Professor, Department of Native Studies, University of Manitoba, Anishinaabekwe, Wisconsin; Kevin Tacan, Educator, Brandon University, Dakota, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation; Dr. Darrell Racine, Assistance Professor, Brandon University, Métis, Turtle Mountain; Shawna Wolfe, Environmental Professional, Métis; Jaimie Isaac, Curator of Indigenous & Contemporary Art, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Anishinaabekwe Sagkeeng First Nation
The Manitoba Museum acknowledges we are on Treaty No. 1 land, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. These lands, occupied for thousands of years, are the traditional territories of the Anishinaabeg, Ininiwak, and Nakota Nations. The Museum is committed to collaborating with all Indigenous peoples of this province.
The Manitoba Museum is honoured to be able to share the historical and contemporary stories of Indigenous communities in our province, stories that are at the heart of Manitoba’s history. The Museum has a long tradition of working collaboratively with Indigenous communities, and we are committed to reconciliation and an inclusive approach to the representation, presentation, and interpretation of Indigenous stories and experiences at the Museum. Developing and nurturing respectful and collaborative relationships with Indigenous communities is an institutional priority and the Museum values its role as a trusted keeper of Indigenous artifacts, and as a partner in the sharing of Indigenous stories.
The 2.9 million artifacts and specimens that make up the Museum’s collection are a rich resource through which Manitobans can understand our history. The Museum has an obligation and opportunity to ensure communities have access to the collections to enable learning.
The Museum has a long and positive working relationship with Indigenous communities throughout the province. Through the work of former Curator of Ethnology, Dr. Katherine Pettipas (and currently Curator Emeritus) in the early 1990s, the Museum served on a committee comprised of members of the Assembly of First Nations and Canadian Museums Association, to produce the Task Force Report on Museums and First Peoples (1994), one of the first documents to guide museums towards respectful and collaborative relationships with Indigenous communities.
The Manitoba Museum is also a partner in the City of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, a joint commitment to enable reconciliation based on the establishment and maintenance of mutually respectful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments, organizations, and individuals. The Museum has an important role to play in responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. There are many ways in which the Manitoba Museum has strengthened our commitment to reconciliation:
- We are a museum for, and about, Indigenous people;
- We are a museum which serves Indigenous needs and incorporates multiple Indigenous perspectives in all aspects of museum knowledge, exhibitions, education and programs;
- We collaborate with Indigenous communities in how to represent Indigenous histories and cultures, building on the recommendations of the Task Force on Museums and First Nations Peoples of 1994;
- We consult with Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers on the care, storage and exhibition protocols related to Indigenous collections;
- We work with Residential School survivors to develop programming which addresses the history of residential schools, and how to share experiences of survivance, resilience, and contemporary contributions;
- We believe in supporting and promoting Indigenous languages through the incorporation of these languages in our exhibitions, publications, and programs;
- We developed a new permanent Treaty exhibition and new Treaty education program in collaboration with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba;
- We offer an Indigenous Scholars in Residence program; and
- Treaty acknowledgement is on our website, and is shared before every Planetarium show, Museum program and all public events.
Care of Sensitive Objects • The Museum provides a sacred storage space for sensitive and significant Indigenous artifacts, and has also welcomed requests from communities and individuals who bring these precious objects to the Museum for safekeeping and respectful care. In 2017, for example, The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation asked the Manitoba Museum to provide a safe and appropriate space for some of the meaningful objects gathered during the National Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings.
The Museum also welcomes requests for repatriation on a case-by-case basis for objects and specimens that have ongoing historical or cultural importance to living individuals, communities, organizations.
Indigenous Advisory Circle • The Museum has established an Indigenous Advisory Circle (photo seen above) with the intent to cultivate strong working relationships between the Museum and Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba. The Advisory Circle helps to support and promote Indigenous inclusion in Museum activities and improve Indigenous representation in exhibitions and programs, with a sincere desire to advance reconciliation, and address and build on the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
The Indigenous Advisory Circle members include people with connections to the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba Elders Council, museums, universities, arts and culture institutions, science research, education, and language support. A purposeful intention is being made to include the languages and communities of the Métis, First Nations, Inuit, Dakota, Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, urban and reserve populations.
In addition to the Advisory Circle, the Museum seeks advice from Indigenous community groups related to specific projects, as has been our practice for several decades.
We Are All Treaty People • On August 12, 2015 the Museum opened the permanent exhibition, We Are All Treaty People, marking the first time that all eight Manitoba Treaty medals were presented as a group. This exhibition, designed in collaboration with the Elders Council of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, underlines First Nations perspectives by pairing the eight Treaty medals with pipes and pipe bags signifying First Nations’ commitment to the Treaty as a sacred undertaking meant to last forever. James Wilson, then Commissioner of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba said:
“We are so thankful to the Manitoba Museum for their willingness to engage our Elders in the process of sharing such important and sacred Treaty artifacts. We are confident the permanent exhibitions will help build bridges and strengthen relationships between First Nations and non-Aboriginal communities through a greater understanding of the Treaty making process.”
The opening of the exhibition also celebrated the commencement of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, and the continuance of a partnership with The Winnipeg Foundation for an Indigenous Scholar in Residence program.
Treaty Training Programs • Wilson’s wish to build bridges has come true many times over, most significantly perhaps through the development of two Treaty programs at the Manitoba Museum, Welcome to Treaty 1 and We Are All Treaty People. These programs profile the Treaty exhibition, encourage reconciliation, and are being enthusiastically booked by government groups, health care workers, and corporate groups, in addition to general public.
The Museum has a keen awareness of our historic and current obligations, and has effectively collaborated with Indigenous communities to represent Indigenous history and culture for new exhibitions and programs. At the same time, the Museum is aware that many of its exhibitions are outdated, having been constructed nearly 50 years ago, and in need of major renewal and new perspectives, where tone, voice and subject matter demand critical revision. This is being accomplished in the current capital renewal project entitled Bringing Our Stories Forward.
Bringing Our Stories Forward Capital Renewal Project:
Many of the Museum’s galleries were constructed for the Museum’s opening in 1970 and while some have had varying levels of renewal, several have been largely untouched and in dire need of renewal. The Museum is currently engaged in a multi-phased $17.5M Capital & Endowment Project entitled Bringing Our Stories Forward which will renew 42% of our galleries. Thanks to funding from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the private sector, the Museum will be able to collaborate with Indigenous communities to better represent Indigenous histories and stories.
The first of four galleries to be renewed as part of the Stories Project was the Nonsuch Gallery featuring the 17th century replica fur trading ship. The Nonsuch ship is one of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts – a touchstone experience for Museum visitors. The narrative of the Gallery has been changed. Rather than setting out on her journey from England, she has now returned from Hudson Bay to the English town of Deptford in 1669. Having successfully completed her voyage, and returning with furs and goods traded with the Cree of what is now Waskaganish, Quebec, the narrative highlights the welcome offered to traders by First Nations peoples. The Boreal Corridor leading to the Gallery now features 700 insect specimens and details the role of fur-bearing animals in the ecosystem upon which the fur trade was based. An oral history (in Cree, English and French) told by Elder Louis Bird now introduces the Nonsuch Gallery, and describes the first encounter between the James Bay Cree and European explorers and how they overcame their fears and helped the newcomers. The new Nautical Balcony exhibition also reveals how First Nations peoples contributed to map making and scientific collecting through the sharing of knowledge and practices with HBC employees.
The Winnipeg Gallery, set to open in October 2019, will integrate Indigenous content throughout the Gallery including deep-time history of the land upon which Winnipeg was built, as well as the significant history of Indigenous peoples’ presence on the land we today call The Forks. The Museum will also address the significant challenges Indigenous communities have faced due to the expansion of the city itself, including important stories of displacement, survivance and on-going contributions of contemporary Indigenous citizens.
In fall 2020 the last two galleries, Grasslands and Orientation, will open. The renewed Grasslands Gallery will highlight a deep and layered view of history, exploring human connections to land, water, plants and animals across thousands of years – connections by Indigenous peoples, early immigrants, Red River societies, and today’s newcomers. Stories of ancient Indigenous peoples will be examined with consideration given to how they travelled over the landscape, shaped geography, delineated pre-contact networks, established burial sites and sacred lands, while developing sophisticated subsistence strategies such as bison pound hunting, and the invention of housing and technological strategies for life on the prairies. The Gallery will introduce stories of First Nation communities as first farmers, the impact of the fur trade, horse culture, and the shared legacies of Indigenous peoples and first immigrants. We will also explore the development of Red River society, the Métis, and the far-reaching significance of the Louis Riel resistance and Confederation, the negotiation of Treaty 1 and 2, as well as the painful legacy of residential schools and the great feat of Indigenous survivance.
The Orientation Gallery renewal will see the relocation of the aforementioned We Are All Treaty People exhibition to this introductory Gallery to prioritize the territorial acknowledgment at the start of a visitor’s experience. It is situated alongside the iconic Métis Bison Hunt diorama which provides an important perspective and context for the story of Manitoba’s inception. The Orientation Gallery provides visitors with an overview of the Museum experience to come: the diversity of galleries and the biome concept by which four of the galleries (Arctic & Subarctic, Boreal Forest, Parklands/Mixed Woods, and Grasslands) are themed to Manitoba’s ecological zones; an accompanying large digital map showing the formation of the land we call Manitoba, beginning with Indigenous networks and trade routes; and a new and improved sight line to the mural “The Creation of the World” by renowned Anishinaabe artist Daphne Odjig.
Education Kits • Over the past six years the Museum has designed a series of education kits for northern communities, the most recent one, Spirit Lines, was recognized with two very distinguished awards: the International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Outstanding Project (by a Non-Native Organization) Award was presented by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (USA); and in 2017 the project received the prestigious Governor General History Alive! Award.
The Spirit Lines project was conceived by Dr. Maureen Matthews, Curator of Cultural Anthropology, who, having listened to oral history transcripts collected by former Museum employee and artist Jackson Beardy in the early 1970s had the idea of returning these oral stories to the communities through bilingual oral and written mediums. Heritage Canada’s Museum Assistance Program (MAP) funded the creation of education kits for schools in Garden Hill First Nation, Jackson Beardy’s home reserve, and Norway House First Nation. The Spirit Lines project privileged community collaboration and creative working relationships with community leaders including Elders, teachers, school administrators, and local crafters who created replica artifacts for the kits.
We are pleased to have recently received MAP funding to produce the next education kit entitled Nametwaawin: Land and Language, a Museum collaboration with Indigenous communities in the newly designated UNESCO world heritage site of Pimachiowin Aki. This site is nearly 30,000 sq. km. of boreal forest that encompasses the traditional lands of four Anishinaabe First Nations, as well as, Atikaki and South Atikaki Provincial Parks in MB, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, and the Eagle–Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario.
In addition to the many exhibitions and programs that are central to the Museum’s mandate, there are additional academic projects which promote Indigenous knowledge and language preservation. One of these projects, Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak: Reclamation, Regeneration, and Reconciliation, is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council supported initiative with the University of Winnipeg to develop a set of five companion books to accompany our existing Museum publication Pisim Finds Her Miskanow (2013). The second is the recently published Stories of the Old Ones: Hunter and Fisher from Sheltered Water by Kevin Brownlee, Curator of Archaeology, a companion book to Stories of the Old Ones from the Lee River (2014) by Curator Emeritus Leigh Syms. A collaborative project with the Sagkeeng Anicinabe Government, this new publication offers a path towards reconciliation, designed and written to contribute to this dialogue, hoping that the exploration of our past offers us all an opportunity to work towards a better future.
Additionally, the Manitoba Museum offers an Indigenous Scholars in Residence Program enabling Indigenous post-graduate university students to have scholarly access to the Museum’s collections to advance their academic practice. This successful program is now in its fourth year.