Archives of Ontario Family Ties Exhibit

Yesterday the Archives of Ontario launched their sesquicentennial exhibit Family Ties: Ontario Turns 150Running until 2018 the exhibit looks at 150 years of Ontario and what Ontario was like at the point of confederation.  The onsite exhibit focuses on four family groups in Ontario during the confederation era.  One of those family groups is the Shingwauk family.  The exhibit section which focuses on the Shingwauk family and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School contains artifacts and images from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC).

I couldn’t be happier about the SRSC content being included in this type of commemorative and educational exhibit.  Thousands of visitors and students will learn about the Shingwauk family through this exhibit and the Archives of Ontario educational programming.

Here’s a Storify of last night’s live tweet of the opening by the Archives of Ontario

 

Interactive History: Indigenous Perspectives and the Blanket Exercise

BlanketsAs part of Orientation Week at AlgomaU students, staff, faculty and community members were invited to participate in the KAIROS blanket exercise.  Originally developed in the 1990s as a response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples the blanket exercise is a participatory teaching too that invites participants to learn about Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective.  The exercise has been updated since the 1990s to include information on more recent events such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Shannon’s Dream.

The exercise teaches about the impacts of colonialism, the loss of Indigenous land, residential schools, the sixties scoop, and numerous other facets of Canadian history that are not often taught in a classroom setting.  The visual representation of Turtle Island through the use of blankets, the physical act of participants representing Indigenous people and watching the spacial and visceral damage that is caused by colonialism is a really moving and had a huge impact on participants.

This is a very unique teaching tool that can be scaled to different age groups and number of participants.  I particularly liked how the session I participated in combined the national historical perspective with local responses and local experiences.  A local First Nation Chief spoke about his community and the removal of resources from their land and a Shingwauk Residential School Survivor shared their experience at Shingwauk as part of the exercise’s narrative.

Given the potentially triggering nature of the content health and cultural support was available throughout the event and the scripted portion of the exercise was followed by a sharing circle which allowed participants an opportunity to reflect on the exercise and discuss the experience.  Overall I think this is a great teaching tool that should be brought into more classrooms, community centers, and university campuses as a way of talking about history, ongoing inequality, and reconciliation.

Reading: Unwritten Histories

oldbookA few months ago I stumbled across Andrea Eidinger’s Unwritten Histories blog.  If you haven’t already come across her site it’s well worth a visit.  I’ve particularly enjoyed her Historian’s Toolkit posts and her “What’s in My Bag?” series which uses material culture as a lens to examine the past.

Andrea has been wonderfully consistent in posting new content and typically maintains a schedule of a new blog post on Tuesday and a Canadian history roundup post on Sunday which highlights other Canadian history content online.

I commend anyone who is able to maintain that type of schedule for numerous months and still come out with interesting and insightful content.  I also love the name of her blog and the implications of exposing histories and parts of historical practice that are not commonly discussed.

Neys Provincial Park

Following a great trip to Pukaskwa National Park I kept up the natural history and camping adventure by spending a few nights at Neys Provincial Park.  I was struck by the difference in landscape between the two parks despite them being less than an hour away from each other.  Pukaskwa had very hilly, cliff views of Lake Superior and the shoreline was a rugged .  In comparison Ney’s had long open beach shorelines, sand dunes, and forested areas.

Prisoner of War Camp

Star embedded on lawn from POW era.  It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Star embedded on lawn from POW era. It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Prior to becoming a provincial park the land now encompassed by Neys was used as a Prisoner of War Camp known as Neys 100 during the second world war.  The camp housed high ranking German officers and others and was primarily staffed by veterans from the First World War.  There are bits of this history scattered throughout the present day park — building foundations, bits of embed stone, and other physical remnants are all interpretation points in the Park today.  Additionally the physical landscape was fundamentally changed by the POW camp, they flattened sand dunes and used many of the trees for lumber.  Trees were later replanted by the Boy Scouts but in standard plantation rows, leaving evidence of how the land has changed.

Point Trail

Boats on Prisoners' Point

Boats on Prisoners’ Point

We didn’t do nearly as much hiking at Neys as at Pukaskwa, but I did manage to explore a couple of the trails.  The Point Trail is a short 1 km trail that follows the shore of Lake Superior and ends at a rocky outcrop known as Prisoners’ Point.  The trail then connects to the Under the Volcano Trail that explores the shoreline stretching from the Point.  I explored a bit of this trail as well.  The trail was a relatively easy walk, albeit a bit wet when I walked it and it was well worth the puddle jumping to reach the views of the lake at the end.  There was a few interpretive signs but they were relatively sparse.  I did enjoy the one that talked about the remains of old boats located on the point– the boats were left over from the Prisoner of War camp era and the logging days of the region.

Dune Trail

This easy loop hike included an interpretive handout that visitors could take with them on the walk.  The handout included numbers which matched specific points on the trail and provided interpretive details about that area.  The handout included a bit of information about the role of the POW camp on the landscape but primarily focused on flowers, the dunes, trees, and the impact of local animal life on the landscape.  Unsurprisingly, I liked the fact that there was a physical thing to hold during the walk and that the interpretation was a bit more developed on this trail.

Visitors’ Centre

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

The Visitors’ Centre was only open during the last day I was at the park.  Despite this we managed to make a short visit to the Centre and check out some their primary interpretive space.  The displays were fairly standard for a provincial park, a lot of focus on the natural landscape with most material geared at families and including a number of touch and feel stations focused on children.  There was also a substantial section dedicated to the history of Neys 100 which included a model which demonstrated what the POW camp would have looked like.  The staff at the Centre were very friendly and seemed to know a lot about the history of the Park and were happy to answer questions about the way the landscape had changed.

 

Pukaskwa National Park

20160626_155631Recently I visited Pukaskwa National Park, the only wilderness national Park in Ontario.  The Park features a small campground and 1878 square km of wonderful Northern Ontario natural heritage.

I had a wonderful time camping, exploring, and learning about the landscape at Pukaskwa.  We were there prior to the official start of their interpretation season (July and August) but still managed to take in some activities and many of their trails have great interpretive signage that can be used without a guide.

Anishinaabe Camp Construction

The first morning at Pukaskwa we joined in a walk to the Anishinaabe Camp that was currently under construction.  We were the only ones to participate in the walk that morning but it was worth the half hour to talk with the people building an interpretive space based on traditional knowledge. Our guide was from Pic River First Nation and works as at the park as a cultural interpreter and programmer and the builders were a combination of local and visiting people with knowledge of traditional structures.  As an added bonus our guide took us into the Visitor Centre despite it not being officially open for the season so we could take a look at some of their other programming spaces and some of the other birch bark items that were made at the Park.  I loved that the park integrates traditional knowledge keepers into interpretive programming.

Beach Trail

20160625_085744Pukaskwa has a number of short hikes that can all be completed in a hour or two from the campground.  This was perfect for us given that we were traveling with a small child.  The first hike we did was the “Beach Trail” which visits driftwood filled beaches in three different areas of shoreline – Horseshoe Bay, middle beach, and north beach.  The views of Lake Superior and the huge amounts of driftwood were amazing to look at.  This trail was a fairly easy hike though there were a few spots that could have used better signage and required some hunting to pick up the trail again. In addition to the natural beauty Horseshoe Bay also featured an easel which explored the Group of Seven’s paintings inspired by the landscape contained in Pukaskwa.  I loved this integration of history, culture, and natural heritage.

Bimose Kinoomagewnan

Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.

Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.

The second trail we explored was the Bimose Kinoomagewnan trail or the “Walk of Teachings”.  This trail may have been my favourite of the many hikes we did at Pukaskwa.  It didn’t have Lake Superior views but the views around Halfway Lake and the interpretive signage focusing on the Seven Grandfather Teachings was extremely well done.

20160626_133709

Wisdom teaching signage.

Each teaching had a sign placed at scenic points on the trail and the signage contained stories of Elders’ experiences in the park, their thoughts on the teachings, and their memories of the land.  Each of these written experiences was paired with artwork by local youth.  The signage was in three languages (English, French, Ojibway) and extremely well done and added to the trail significantly.  On the natural heritage side of things I loved the variety of this trail which includes forested land, huge rock faces, hills, a beaver lodge, and fantastic views.

Southern Headland Trail

Red Chairs as part of the "Share the Chair" Parks Canada program.

Red Chairs as part of the “Share the Chair” Parks Canada program.

This was probably the most popular trail we explored – at least judging by the number of people we saw exploring the views.  On many of the other hikes we didn’t see anyone else.  The Southern Headland trail has breath taking Lake Superior views and overlooks Hattie Cove, Pulpwood Harbour, and Horseshoe Bay.

This walk provides visitors with glimpses of the power of Superior and there is some signage talking about the impact the lake has on the landscape and flora/fauna in the region.  This trail also featured the “red chair experience” a Parks Canada national initiative which places red Muskoka style chairs at places with breathtaking views and spots which highlight some of the best spots in national parks.  I love the idea of making destination points within parks that are points of connection, shared experience, and social media opportunities.

Manito Miikana

Outlook over Lake Superior on Manito Miikana

Outlooking Lake Superior on Manito Miikana

Also known as “the Spirit Trail”, Manito Miikana is a predominately forested trail leading to two viewing platforms with panoramic views of Lake Superior.  This was by far the most difficult trail we hiked, it has a lot of changing elevations, a ton of tree roots, uneven ground, and it was very wet the day we walked it.  The views were similar to that of the Southern Headland Trail but overlooked different portions of the lake and also allowed for a look at the Pic River Dunes in the distance.  It wasn’t a bad hike and we probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t rained so much prior to our walk.

Overall

I really enjoyed Pukaskwa National Park, exploring the natural history and learning a bit more about the landscape of the North Shore.  I was also pleasantly surprised by a lot of the interpretation programming and signage in the park.  The interpretation I engaged with was really well done and the Park has made an effort to engage local Indigenous communities in programming and include traditional knowledge in their signage.

Re-writing Wikipedia

ReWriteWikipediaPosterAs I mentioned earlier the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) is currently hosting ““A Lifetime – Day by Day, Five Women and Their Diaries”the travelling exhibit from the Archives of Ontario and a locally curated companion exhibit “Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation.”

As part of the the Indigenous Women Rebuilding A Nation exhibit the SRSC will be hosting an event titled “Rewriting Wikipedia.”  On June 20, 2016 this event aims increase the prevalence of content relating to Indigenous women online. The event aims to re-write Wikipedia to include Indigenous women in historical narratives not only as wives, daughters, aunts, and sisters, but also as leaders with their own identities and stories. The event is free of charge, open to all and no experience with Wikipedia is required. Drop-ins welcome.  More details are available on the Facebook Event Page and in the Press Release.

As you might have noticed I’ve been writing a fair bit about Wikipedia recently.  Since January I’ve been slowly becoming more engaged with the Wikipedia community and have been inspired by the range of possibilities that are available for the GLAM sector on the platform. The idea to hold a Wikipedia edit-a-thon and get the local university community engaged with Wikipedia came from watching the great work of Danielle Robichaud and the Archives Association of Ontario had at their last Wikipedia event.

The idea was also partially motivated by the profound realization that Indigenous Women are greatly underrepresented on Wikipedia.  Indigenous Women fall in the intersection of two underrepresented groups on Wikipedia and the SRSC holds numerous archival holdings that relate to Indigenous women and their work.  I also owe a lot of thanks to the wonderful SRSC Student Assistant Skylee-Storm Hogan who’s enthusiasm and connections to the student population have been key in getting this idea going.  I’m fortunate to work so many inspiring and talented Indigenous women on a daily basis.

Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium

Last week I attended the second Bi-Annual Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium at Algoma University.  It was a great day and included speakers on everything from sustainability, to the power of food, to decolonizing railways. The symposium also included scholars from a range of backgrounds including community members, all levels of students, and academics.  It was nice to see such a diverse group of participants and to learn about so many interesting projects.  Some of the highlights for me included:

Sustainable Education Practices

Yvonne Vizina was the keynote speaker for the day and spoke on her academic and professional work relating to sustainability.  I found her work relating to the integration of Indigenous knowledge in science education and her curriculum development advocacy particularly interesting.  Her talk also focused on role Indigenous people have to play in environmental science and the need for the incorporation of Indigenous voices in policy development relating to sustainable environmental practices.  Yvonne also spoke about her work on the Indigenous Science From Place project which examined the inclusion of First Nations and Métis perspectives in the Saskatchewan school science curriculum and the impact that inclusion had upon student outcomes.

Urban Indigenous Youth For Change Panel

This panel featured Candace Neveau, Jordan Tabobondung, Rihkee Strapp and was chaired by Mitch Case. I’ve heard this group of youth speak a few times before and it is always an inspiring experience to hear about their community driven work and the success they’ve had in engaging local youth.  The discussion focused on how the panelists were involved in the local and other communities, what Indigenous innovation means, the role of Indigenous ways of knowing in their work, and advice for other Indigenous youth looking to become involved in similar work.  The panel included many powerful words and examples of being dedicated and driven to create safe spaces, open the lines of communication, and look at problems from Indigenous perspectives.

Work to Aid Healing and Reconciliation

Maggie McGoldrick, a PhD Candidate at Queens and an AlgomaU grad, spoke on her research relating to Indigenous centered archival movements and specifically the work of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre to aid healing and reconciliation. I’ve been in touch with Maggie over the past couple of years while she’s started this work and its great to see the early stages of her research coming together.  Her presentation focused on archives as site of memory and the power of archives to act as collective memory.  She also spoke on the need for historical documents and lived experience to interconnect.  I look forward to hearing more about Maggie’s work as it progresses.

Centennial Celebrations at Residential Schools

cowessessI recently was working with an audio recording from the Cowessess Indian Residential School.  The recording was in the form of a seemingly professionally produced record featuring a musical ensemble of Cowessess IRS students.  The recording was produced to celebrate the 1967 Canadian centennial.  This particular item got me thinking about the handful of other material I’ve come across that relates to residential schools celebrating the Canadian centennial.

At the Shingwauk Residential School the centennial was incorporated in a variety of ways including:

  • Students putting on the play ‘Arrow to the Moon’ which was written by a staff member.
  • Participating in the local centennial celebrations, specifically in a local ‘Indian Pavilion’ focused on Indigenous people.
  • Students created small handicrafts which were then sold at local centennial celebrations.  Many of these crafts were seemingly token Indigenous in nature – eg. totem poles and west coast style woodwork.

This seemingly cheery participation in the centennial is a stark contrast to the federal celebrations and the Canadian Indian Pavilion at Expo 67.  Created in consultation with Indigenous communities from across Canada the pavilion was designed to show the living conditions of Indigenous people in Canada and highlight the unfairness of Canadian government policies.  The Pavilion included a graphic display of a life-sized portrait of an Indigenous family outside of their home with the caption “… and still, too many Indians are poor, sick, cold and hungry. Three out of every four Indian families earn $2,000 or less a year. The poverty line for the rest of Canadian families is $3,000 a year.”[1]

The Expo 67 pavilion was a drastic contrast to the official messaging around the success of the reserve system and residential schools.  Unsurprisingly the pavilion was also very different to the celebratory centennial activities seen at residential schools.[2]

If anyone has come across other examples of the types of activities that were done in residential schools as part of the Canada celebration I would be interested in seeing them.  They are odd little pieces of the residential school curriculum that highlight the assimilation based education and attempts to instill Canadian pride in IRS students.

[1] “Message for Canadians At Indian Pavilion”, Indian Record 30, no. 5 (1967): 15.  Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Grey Nuns of Montreal Collection.

[2] For more information on Indigenous participation in Expo 67 see ““It’s Our Country”: First Nations’ Participation in the Indian Pavilion at Expo 67” by Myra Rutherdale and Jim Miller.

Friday Reading: #AHIndigenous Week

This week over at Active History guest editor Crystal Fraser put together an amazing line up of posts from Indigenous scholars in Canada.  For more information on the series as a whole check out Crystal’s “Politics and Personal Experience: An Editor’s Introduction to Indigenous Research in Canada.” Every post in this the series was worth reading and the week’s lineup included:

  • Monday, January 11 – Crystal Fraser, Editor’s Introduction; Leanne Simpson, “A Smudgier Dispossession is Still Dispossession”; Zoe Todd, “Conversations with my Father’s Paintings: Writing My Relations Back Into the Academy
  • Tuesday, January 12 – Claire Thomson, “Holding Our Lands and Places”; Daniel Sims, “Not That Kind of Indian”
  • Wednesday, January 13 – Adam Gaudry, “Paved with Good Intentions: Simply Requiring Indigenous Content is Not Enough”; Anna Huard, “A Wrench in the Medicine Wheel: The Price of Stolen Water on Indigenous Cultural Continuity”
  • Thursday, January 14 – Lianne Charlie, “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow: The Next Generation of Yukon Indigenous Politics”; Norma Dunning, “Strengthening the Nunavut Educational System”
  • Friday, January 15 – Billy-Ray Belcourt, ” Political Depression in a Time of Reconciliation”; Mary Jane McCallum, Title Forthcoming

Canadian Girls In Training: 100 Years With A Purpose

My most recent post, “Canadian Girls in Training: 100 Years With A Purpose” can be seen over at Active History.  I wrote this post after attending a local 100th anniversary celebration of CGIT and learning about the local impact of the organization.  The post also looks at the history of CGIT across Canada and the movement’s links to feminism and changing approaches to education.