On August 12, The Manitoba Museum opened two new permanent exhibits within the Parklands Mixed Woods Gallery, We Are All Treaty People and The Berens Family Collection Exhibit. The former marks the first time that all eight Manitoba Treaty medals will be presented as a group, the completion of a project that was years in the making and the latter adds background on Treaty 5, as told through the story of Chief Jacob Berens and his family.
This new exhibit signals a historic event, uniting all the medals which figure in Manitoba’s Treaty history. We Are All Treaty People uses historic photographs to take viewers back to the moment when Treaties were being negotiated and reminds us of the generous spirit of our First Nations hosts which animated the Treaty process. One of the photos, an original print from the 1870’s is of Chief William Mann, who signed Treaty One on behalf of the people living at Fort Alexander, now Saugeen First Nation, and kept in the Mann family until this year.
In order to underline First Nations perspectives, the eight Treaty medals have been matched with pipes and pipe bags signifying the First Nations’ commitment to the Treaty as a sacred undertaking meant to last forever. “It is unusual for a museum to display sacred artefacts like these pipes and pipe bags, but without them we would have failed to represent First Nations agency and understandings,” says Dr. Maureen Matthews, Curator of Native Ethnology at The Manitoba Museum and responsible for this exhibit.
An adjacent exhibit explores Treaty No. 5 through the legacy of the Berens family. Chief Jacob Berens negotiated Treaty No. 5 in 1875 at Berens River. He and his descendents were Chiefs at Berens River and important provincial political figures for more than 90 years. Treaty No. 5 covers most of Manitoba and contains the first language about First Nations hunting and trapping rights.
“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 artefacts,” said James Wilson, Commissioner of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM). “We are confident the permanent exhibits will help build bridges and strengthen relationships between First Nations and non-Aboriginal communities through a greater understanding of the Treaty making process.”
The Manitoba Museum also announced the creation of a new Memorandum of Understanding with Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba and a partnership with The Winnipeg Foundation for an Aboriginal Scholar in Residence program.
“The Winnipeg Foundation, through the generosity of our donors, is pleased to support this exciting opportunity from which our entire community will benefit. The Aboriginal Scholar in Residence program will engage Indigenous students in important work that will enrich the Manitoba Museum’s outreach to our city and province,” said Rick Frost, CEO of The Winnipeg Foundation.
These projects would not have been possible without broad community support including the Province of Manitoba, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, Association of Manitoba, Chiefs, Elders Council, Archives of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Manitoba Museum Foundation, The Winnipeg Foundation Anonymous Fund, Parks Canada, and several private donors including Ian Laing.