Indigenous Advisory Circle to the Manitoba Museum
Dr. Cary Miller, Chair, Associate Vice President Indigenous: Curriculum, Scholarship, and Research, University of Manitoba, Anishinaabekwe, Wisconsin;
Elder Joe Hyslop, Past Member of Treaty Relations Council of Elders, Lac Brochet, Northlands First Nation, Denesouline;
Elder Kevin Tacan, Cultural Consultant and Educator, Brandon University, Dakota, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation;
Dr. Kyle Bobiwash, Assistant Professor and Indigenous Scholar, University of Manitoba, Mississauga First Nation;
Jaimie Isaac, Curator, Artist, Curatorial Advisor at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Scholar in Residence at Seven Oaks School Division; past Chief Curator – AGGV; past Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art – WAG;
Sharissa Neault, Resource and Outreach Manager – The Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre, Online Learning Coordinator, Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre, Fox Lake Cree Nation;
Shawna Wolfe, Policy Advisor – Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environmental Professional, Métis.
Past Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) Advisors:
Dr. Darrell Racine, Assistant Professor, Brandon University, Métis, Turtle Mountain;
Fred Ford, Past President/Board Chair, Manitoba Inuit Association, Inuit;
Maxine Angoo, Services Coordinator, Tunngasugit Inuit Resource Centre, Whale Cove, Nunavut;
Sophia Rabliauskas, Teacher, Poplar River Elementary School, Anishinaabekwe, Poplar River.
Indigenous Connections – An Introduction
The Manitoba Museum acknowledges we are on Treaty No.1 land, the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabeg, Ininíwak, and Michif. These lands, water, and waterways are the unceded territories of the Dakota, and the homeland of the Red River Métis Nation. The Museum is committed to reflecting the continued legacy of all the original peoples of this province, including the Ithiniwak, Denesułine, Anishininiwak, Inuit, and Nakota.
We acknowledge the harms of the past, are committed to improving relationships in the spirit of reconciliation, and appreciate the opportunity to live and learn on these traditional lands in mutual respect.
The Manitoba Museum is committed to reconciliation based on the establishment and maintenance of mutually respectful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments, organizations, and individuals. The values and commitments of the Museum’s relationship with Indigenous peoples endeavours to address and build on the recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – Articles 11, 19, 31, 32
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 inclusivity of 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.
There are many ways in which the Manitoba Museum continues to strengthen our commitment to reconciliation:
- We are a museum for, and about, Indigenous people;
- We are a museum committed to serving Indigenous needs and incorporating multiple Indigenous perspectives in all aspects of museum knowledge, exhibitions, education, and programs;
- We collaborate and co-curate 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 present permanent Treaty exhibits in our galleries, and a Treaty education program in collaboration with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba;
- We offer an Indigenous Scholars in Residence program;
- Treaty acknowledgement is on our website, and is shared before every Planetarium show, Museum program, and all public events; and
- We are a proud partner and member of the City of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord.
Collections & Conservation
Care of Sensitive Objects • The Museum provides a sacred storage space for sensitive or ceremonial 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 established an Indigenous Advisory Circle (members listed above) in 2018 with the intent to cultivate strong and trusting working relationships between the Museum and Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba. The Indigenous Advisory Circle has now become a Standing Committee of the Manitoba Museum Board of Governors and plays a key advisory role to help to support and promote Indigenous governance, inclusion, and representation in Museum activities and improve Indigenous representation, with a sincere desire to advance reconciliation in accordance with the TRC Calls to Action and UNDRIP.
The IAC provides advice and recommendation on the integration of Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, teachings, values, traditions, and worldviews. They help inform the Board when shaping the organization’s strategy related to integrating Indigenous rights, interests and values, and helps the Museum to grow and achieve related goals.
The Indigenous Advisory Circle members include Advisors with connections to museums, universities, arts and culture institutions, science research, education, and language support. A purposeful intent is continuously being made to include the languages and communities of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Dakota, Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, urban, rural, and reserve populations and youth.
Indigenous Treaty Interpretation
We Are All Treaty People • The Museum has developed five Treaty exhibits over the last decade signifying First Nations’ commitment to the Treaty as a sacred undertaking meant to last forever, and signifying recommitment to acknowledging that we all benefit from Treaties, are all bound by the promises made in the Treaties – that we are all Treaty people. James Wilson, past 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.”
Treaty Training Programs • Wilson’s wish to build bridges has come true many times over, most significantly perhaps through the development of Treaty programs at the Manitoba Museum that profile the Treaty exhibits, encourage reconciliation, and are being enthusiastically booked by government groups, health care workers, and corporate groups, in addition to the general public.
Renewal of Permanent Gallery Spaces
The Museum has a keen awareness of our historic and current obligations and has effectively collaborated with Indigenous communities for over three decades to represent Indigenous history and culture for new exhibitions and programs. This consultation process was continued as part of the Museum’s recent Bringing Our Stories Forward Capital Project that saw the renewal of over 50% of our permanent galleries.
This was accomplished for over 50% of our permanent galleries through our recently completed capital renewal project entitled Bringing Our Stories Forward. At the same time, the Museum is aware that many of its exhibits within the Arctic Subarctic, Boreal Forest, and Earth History galleries 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. We are committed to upgrading these galleries incrementally and look towards the possibility of another capital renewal project in the future to address these galleries as a whole.
Bringing Our Stories Forward Capital Renewal Project:
The Museum engaged in a multi-phased $17.5M Capital & Endowment Project entitled Bringing Our Stories Forward which renewed 50% of our galleries and upgraded finishes throughout all galleries. Thanks to funding from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the private sector, the Museum was able to collaborate with Indigenous communities to better represent Indigenous histories and stories.
The first of four galleries to be renewed as part of Phase One of the Our Stories Project was the Nonsuch Gallery in 2018 featuring the 17th century replica fur trading ship, and the Boreal Corridor in the Boreal Forest Gallery. 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.
Phase Two opened the Winnipeg Gallery in October 2019, and integrated 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 addresses 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 spring of 2021 the last two galleries, the new Welcome Gallery and the renewed Prairies Gallery opened. The renewed Grasslands Gallery, now known as the Prairies Gallery highlights 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 is explored with consideration given to how people 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 introduces 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. The development of Red River society, the Métis, and the far-reaching significance of the Louis Riel resistance and Confederation is featured, as well as the negotiation of Treaty 1, the painful legacy of residential schools and the great feat of Indigenous survivance.
The Welcome Gallery renewal prioritizes the territorial acknowledgment at the start of a visitor’s experience providing an understanding of Treaties and their promises. The iconic Métis Bison Hunt diorama continues to provide an important perspective and context for the story of Manitoba’s inception. The Welcome Gallery gives 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 and Subarctic, Boreal Forest, Parklands, and Prairies) are themed to Manitoba’s ecological zones. Also in this gallery is an engaging large digital map showing the formation of the land we call Manitoba, beginning in deep time and moving into Indigenous networks and trade routes, location of Treaties to present day. A new and improved sight line to the mural “The Creation of the World” by renowned Anishinaabe artist Daphne Odjig can now be enjoyed.
Educational, and Skill and Knowledge Reclamation Programs
Skill and Knowledge Reclamation Programs • The Museum continues to offer a variety of skill and knowledge reclamation programs including beading, moccasin, and mukluk making workshops, and behind-the-scenes programs within the collections to view and learn from the collections through the eyes and experiences of Indigenous beaders, quillworkers, and more.
Education Kits • Over the past decade the Museum has designed a series of education kits for northern communities. The first, Spirit Lines, was conceived and inspired by oral history transcripts collected by former Museum employee and artist Jackson Beardy in the early 1970s with 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.
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.
In addition to the many exhibitions and programs that are central to the Museum’s mandate, there are additional academic programs and projects which promote Indigenous knowledge and language preservation.
The Manitoba Museum continues to offer the successful Indigenous Scholars in Residence Program supporting Indigenous post-graduate university students to have scholarly access to the Museum’s collections to advance their academic practice.
In 2018, the Museum published Stories of the Old Ones: Hunter and Fisher from Sheltered Water by Kevin Brownlee, past 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.