‘way, tansi and welcome to the 2017 edition of the Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives’ digital magazine Curious in this, the museum’s 131st year, and as BC celebrates its 146th year in the year of Canada 150. In 2016 Curious featured behind-the-scenes views of the Chinese Legacy Initiatives, following the BC Government apology of 2014. In the continued spirit of reconciliation after the June 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this 2017 edition of Curious features Indigenous perspectives on the Royal BC Museum and Archives and its collections.
In his article “Convergence” Andrew Bak writes about how a recent visit to the museum—a break from his treaty implementation work at Tsawwassen First Nation—impacted him and his kids. Their main intention was to see the Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age exhibition, which was everything his children hoped for, but he tells us that he took the opportunity to remind his children of the importance of qeqen, or welcome posts, as they entered the museum and saw the poles that stand there. Andrew also writes about how the stunning visuals of the argillite carving display in the First Peoples gallery contain powerful and ageless stories in their complex and delicate details.
“Permanent remand” by Troy Andrew Sebastian is about his experience of seeing Ktunaxa ancestor mother behind the glass at the museum. He describes her as “cold and so far from home” as “English words that stand proudly beside my relations are riddled with mistakes.”
“This is my house on display; This is my law” by Maxine Matilpi is about the Royal BC Museum’s role in her journey to discover Kwakwaka’wakw protocols and Indigenous Legal Systems, beginning with her Faculty of Law degree from the University of Victoria. This led to her developing and delivering seminars on different pedagogies, including a seminar on Indigenous Legal Systems. The seminar took place on the third floor of the museum in the guxxi-bidu (little Bighouse) of her late great-grandfather, Jonathan Hunt, Chief Kwakwabalasami. She started the seminar by acknowledging that the museum is on Songhees territory. She ends with how she told her classmates in the seminar that there was a village where the museum sits, and that their houses, and what goes on in them, are important components of their Indigenous Legal Systems.
In “It is good to feel things” Janet Rogers writes about her part in a public program called Site and Sound where artists, musicians, actors and poets were invited to conduct visual and audio interventions inside various galleries at the museum. She describes how this led to the humiliating experience of participants’ sacred objects having to go through an inspection process, otherwise they would be denied access to the gallery. She writes that at a public reception afterwards, everyone was given a chance to speak about the “incident” from their perspective. She concludes with how she later returned to the museum for the Our Living Languages exhibition and had a more positive experience that led her to produce a radio segment for on the exhibition CBC’s Unreserved.
In “Awakening memory” France Trépanier explains her contested relationship with museums. She writes about how she had the privilege of listening to amazing stories of artworks as a researcher visiting the collection of the Manitoba Museum and, in particular, one object of the collection: a water project called Awakening Memory (a community-based initiative and a contemporary art exhibition). She writes about how she later embarked on a project inviting Indigenous artists Sonny Assu, Lesslie Cowichan and Marianne Nicolson to see the drum known as the ‘Naamiwan’s Drum’, and how the gallery context of the research project took place at the Royal BC Museum. She concludes that museums have a unique role in helping our country to know its own truth and in[re]conciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Bobby Clark’s article “What does it mean to find yourself, your family and your community in the Royal BC Museum and Archives collections?” is about discovering important elements of Nisg̱a’a traditions in the museum and archives. He writes about how the Nisg̱a’a Nation is a matrilineal society with oral history spanning back to the beginning of creation, and how the significance of Ḵ’amligiihaahlhaahl (the Supreme Being) and his grandson Tx̱eemsim has been taught in oral history throughout the generations. Bobby remarks that he never physically visited the museum and archives but had the experience of accessing all these and more Nisg̱a’a traditions through the online records collection.
In her article “Restoring balance: Reuniting Coast Salish art and oral history” Aunalee Boyd-Good outlines the artistic background of her family. She writes about how her father William Good said “It is impossible to separate art and history—it defines the culture.” He contacted museums all over Canada and the United States and was subsequently mailed copies of photos of Coast Salish artifacts. This lead him to visiting archival collections, including those at the BC Archives, and enabled him learn his language and to write the language down to share with others.
Trish Rosborough’s article “Living languages: Ancestral voices” is also about the Our Living Languages exhibition. She describes herself as a professor of Indigenous education who has the privilege of teaching in programs with people who are revitalizing their endangered languages and who are working to develop new generations of speakers. She tells about her first visit to the exhibition, when she entered through the “language forest” and stopped to listen to each of the distinct languages, including her Kwak’wala language. She ends that this experience gave her a sense of place and connected her to the Kwaguł voices of her ancestors.
Jonina Kirton’s “The Ancestors are Calling” article begins with how she saw photos of her great uncle, Joe Bouchie, in the BC Archives and how she was raised in a Métis family in a Michif speaking home; but at some point her grandmother and one of her sisters decided to hide their Métis ancestry. She later found newspaper clippings of Uncle Joe Bouchie’s life in the archives. As she read about him and realized that he died in BC in 1966, it lead to her realization of Métis diaspora. She writes about how old photos and articles like those found at the archives have brought some of the threads together and helped to braid stories of her ancestors and their descendants, to create a picture of their lives that goes beyond history lessons.
Please enjoy this collection of important, diverse and honest perspectives.
Thanks to Digital Manager Dave Stewart for his guidance and support. We would also like to acknowledge Guest Editor Francine Cunningham, and Publisher Michelle van der Merwe for editorial support. Acknowledgement and thanks especially to all the contributing authors: Andrew Bak, Angie Bain, Aunalee Boyd-Good, Bobby Clark, Dave Caswell, France Trépanier, Janet Rogers, Jónína Kirton, Julian Napoleon, Leesa Mike, Lindsay Delaronde, Maxine Hayman Matilpi, T’łat’łaḵuł Trish Rosborough and Troy Sebastian.