Winnipeg, MB (March 17, 2017): The Manitoba Museum recently delivered a dozen educational kits to schools in two northern Manitoba communities. These kits, the products of a project called SPIRIT LINES, were developed to re-introduce oral histories and physical specimens to the communities of Norway House Cree Nation and Garden Hill First Nation. The artifacts are currently in the Museum’s collections but originate from these two communities and include embroidered mitts, watch pockets, and rock sculptures, among other items.
The Museum collaborated with many members of each community in the development of the SPIRIT LINES kits. In particular, Byron Beardy, the son of the late artist Jackson Beardy and the originally collector of the oral histories on the 1970s, contributed his interpretation and translations skills to the project. SPIRIT LINES also actively engaged with experts and Elders from the communities to ensure relevant and meaningful content was produced. These partners included teachers, Native language specialists, Band councillors, school administration, local sculptors and beaders, as well as local education consultants.
The SPIRIT LINES kits comprise a set of resources that focus on language retention and acquisition, and showcase artistic achievement in both communities. In particular, SPIRIT LINES has published five books (three photo books and two text books) and recorded 20 oral histories and legends for these kits. In keeping with a community-focused approach, resources developed for Norway House have been translated into Swampy Cree and those for Garden Hill into Anihshininiimowin (Oji-Cree).
In late February and early March Richard Laurin, the developer of the kit traveled to both communities to deliver and introduce them at each school in the communities. While in Norway House, he also delivered kits to University College of the North to be used in their Northern Teacher Training programs. “The feedback from the communities was very positive. In particular, the Garden Hill the Native Language teachers were very excited with their new syllabic enabled keyboards, says Laurin. “As for Norway House, teachers and students alike were keen to test their traditional knowledge of snowshoe making by trying their hand at weaving the snowshoe templates provided in the kits.”
The SPIRIT LINES project was fully funded through the Museum Assistance Program (MAP) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.