By the Museum at Campbell River
Normally in this column we like to share lighthearted stories from our past, taking a ‘look back’ at times some of us remember, but many do not. However, with the timing of this month’s paper coming on the day before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we thought it was important to shed light on another aspect of our history.
Museums are places where people are encouraged to engage in lifelong learning. Our exhibits and programs encourage our visitors to learn more about what is on display. Our work behind the scenes to produce exhibits and programs are inevitably more fulsome than what fits into a display case, or onto a graphic panel.
In 1996, this museum undertook a largescale research project to explore and document the history of the Residential schools in the North Island district, specifically St. Michael’s in Alert Bay, and Christie’s, or Kakawis, on Meares Island. The project involved searching for documents and records in other archives, sourcing out related artifacts for the collection, as well as interviewing past students and employees of the schools. The goal of the project was to document a part of our history that was not discussed or widely known at the time, and to also inform a permanent exhibition about the schools and their impact at the Museum. The interviews that were conducted as a part of this research project are in many ways its most important legacy. These stories are being preserved.
The exhibit forms a part of the Museum’s permanent exhibition about colonization and its impact on the Indigenous Nations of the North Island. This exhibition was co-curated with Chief Robert Joseph of the Gwawaenuk First Nation and Haa’yuups of the Hupacasath First Nation. An interview with Haa’yuups discussing the limits of a museum exhibition in telling these stories was produced by the Our Native Land podcast with Tchadas Leo this past summer. Haa’yuups also speaks a great deal about the history of the schools and the impact of the recent rediscovery of the children buried there, although difficult at times, it is well worth a listen and can be found anywhere you get your podcasts.
Our community provides many opportunities to learn about this history on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
The Museum will be open, and free to the public on the 30th, in fact, we are free to the local community every Wednesday year-round. Come spend time in our exhibition on the Impact of Colonization and then visit the Sacred Journeys travelling exhibition developed by the Haítzaqv First Nation, to see and hear directly from Indigenous community members how they are pushing back against these impacts of colonization today.
This exhibit will be on display at the Museum until November 7th.
A travelling replica of the Witness Blanket exhibit, produced by Kwakwaka’wakw and Salish artist Carey Newman on behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, is on display at Laichwiltach Family Life Society until October 30th.
“It is a monument that recognizes the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honours the children and symbolizes ongoing reconciliation. This cedar-framed artwork, inspired by a woven blanket, includes hundreds of objects recovered from 77 communities across Canada where residential schools were located.”
There is a film about the making of the Witness Blanket available to view on You Tube, and a book detailing the history and many of the stories represented by the objects incorporated into the blanket. This book, Picking Up the Pieces, is available at the Museum’s shop. There are many other books available that share the stories of residential school survivors, seek them out in the public library or at your local bookstores. The Museum shop also has a selection.
Tomorrow, you can also participate in a public event at Spirit Square, the 5th Annual Every Child Matters Orange Shirt Day Walk, organized by the Laichwiltach Family Life Society. Everyone is welcome to participate in the walk and following events to honour the survivors, starting from Spirit Square at 11 a.m.
Remember to wear your orange shirt if you have one, we hope to see you there.