Sesqui and the Horizon Film

Last week Sesqui and the film Horizon were in Sault Ste. Marie.  If you haven’t heard of Sesqui (short for Sesquisentinial) it is is a 360° cinematic experience marking Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.  It’s traveling across Ontario using a giant canvas dome to show the film Horizon. The 20 minute film features landscapes from across Canada and includes artists from across Canada, the film is projected on the interior of the dome providing an immersive film experience.

The film has no words and was visually quite stunning.  Given that this was billed as a part of the 150th commemoration events I (perhaps naively) expected there to be some historical content in the film.  There was almost none. The film was much more focused on highlight the physical, geographical, and cultural diversity of the landscape of Canada.  There were many segments of people singing, canoeing, skating, skateboarding, and engaged in other outdoor activities.  This was paired with wildlife footage and landscape images.

IMAX technology originally premiered in 1967 when the National Film Board launched the In the Labyrinth film at Expo ’67.  The Sesqui project connects back to that original leap in film technology by attempting to create a new kind of immersive film experience.

Sesqui has also created a learning hub which includes additional information on select topics including : Arts, Canadian Geography, education, English, Indigenous Studies, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Social Studies.  For example, Horizon includes footage of a traditional Haida dance and the work of Haida carver Christian White.  The supplemental video material connects these brief segments to large social and cultural traditions and provide historical context to the brief clips that were seen in the Horizon film.  The educational material isn’t perfect but it is a good starting point to have larger conversations about the material that was included (and the material that wasn’t) in the film.

Multiple trailers and previews of the content can be found on Youtube and I’ve included one of the trailers below.  They also mentioned at the screening that there is an associated app, Meridian VR and that eventually all of the video footage will be available to download via that app.

Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History Webinar Series

Wikipedia, Outreach, and Activism, Oh My!

As part of my role at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) I’ve recently been working with Canada’s History Society to organize a summer webinar series focused on Wikipedia, Outreach, and Activism in relation to Canada’s History.  This four part webinar series will run in July/August and is focusing on how Wikipedia can be used for outreach and activism in relation to Canadian History.

This webinar series is suitable for GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) professionals, public historians, and those interested in Canadian history. No experience editing Wikipedia is necessary to participate.  Folks can sign up to participate on the Canada History Society website. We have a great line up of experienced  Wikipedia editors, community organizers, activists, and history folks who are going to be presenting as part of the series.

Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter Conference

beyond 150 logoI’m super excited to have been part of the planning for the “Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories” twitter conference that will be held August 24-25, 2017 on Twitter. Organized by Active History, Unwritten Histories, Canada’s History Society, and The Wilson Institute the conference aims to diversify the historical narrative and uplift marginalized historical perspectives. It is designed to encourage collaboration, public engagement, and spark discussion about Canada’s history in a way that is accessible to everyone.

For details on the conference, how you can participate, and the CFP check out today’s Active History announcement. Or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #beyond150CA.

CHA Reflections

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) annual meeting held at Ryerson in Toronto, Ontario.  This is the first time I have had been back to CHA in six or more years and I happy to say it was a worth while experience. Though I’m still a die hard NCPH fan I can see that CHA has it’s place and value, especially to those practicing history within the academy.

CHA highlights for me included:

  • Meeting with Active History editorial collective and discussing the future of the Active History project.  The last time I saw many of the other editors was in 2015 at the Active History conference, so it was great to be able to connect in person.
  • The “Decolonize 1867: Stories from the People event” was a great way to start my CHA experience.  The session was organized by Stacy Nantion-Knapper and Kathryn Labelle and featured Catherine Tammaro, Brittany Luby, Naomi Recollet, Helen Knott, Jessie Thistle, and Carolyn Podruchny.  The session was conversational in nature and included presentations focused around visual art, poetry, and storytelling.  The words of the presenters invoked discussions of land, the ongoing impacts of colonialism, and a critical look at commemoration.  Helen Knott’s poem “Indigenous Diaspora: Out Of Place In Place” was a beautiful and thought provoking discussion of land, colonialism, and resilience. Similarly, Naomi Recollet’s presentation of the “Unceded” video showcased the varying views Indigenous communities have to land, legislation, and government relationships.
  • One of the panels I really enjoyed was the The Indian Act: A Contested Technique of Colonial Governance, 1876-Present panel.  This panel featured four presenters focusing on different aspects and interpretations of the Indian Act and the Act’s impact on Indigenous communities.  Many of the papers on this panel subverted the standard colonial narrative and were looking for Indigenous perspectives on the Indian Act – either through oral history, finding archival sources written by Indigenous leaders, or reading government documents against the grain. The panel featured: Chandra Murdoch, “Mobilization of and against Indian Act elections on Haudenosaunee Reserves, 1870-1924”; Anne Janhunen, “Government Responses to Indigenous Political Organizing and Legal Representation in Southern Ontario, 1903-1927”; “Genevieve R. Painter, “Cutting Costs and Constructing Canada: A History of Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act”; Jacqueline Briggs “#PolicyFail: How the Department of Indian Affairs negotiated the dissolution of the assimilation and management projects in the 1960s”
  • I also enjoyed the “Recovering Indigenous Law in Ore-Confederation Land Conveyances to the British Crown, 1764-1864” panel.  In particular, Jeffrey Hewitt’s discussion of “Wampum as Treaty Text” and the idea of looking beyond written text for historical information was something that resonated strongly with me.  Hewitt also discussed the need for settlers to develop literary beyond the written word – and the need to view wampum belts, songs, and dances as valid sources of information.
  • Another highlight for me was connecting with folks I only know online at CHA. It was great to see some archivists and public historians at the conference and so many inspiring women participating in the event.

Things I would like to see more of at CHA:

  • The roundtable format used at the social media panel and the public historians panel worked really well.  The format was conversational and included ample time for discussion.  I would love to see more sessions borrow from this model.
  • More creative based sessions such as the “Decolonize 1867” event which re-positioned historical narratives.
  • More community engaged scholars sharing their work – and community collaborators speaking alongside academics at CHA.  Community voices have value and we need to listen.  This is particularly important when talking about marginalized communities and needing to open up the space to make room for those voices.
  • There was one solid queer history panel but it would have been great to see more queer history throughout the program.
  • More people using Twitter.  At times I felt like the lone conference tweeter in the room.  To see the Twitter archive from the conference visit Unwritten Histories.

Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action

Sophia Reuss recently wrote an article on  how “Indigenous people want museums to heed TRC’s calls to action: Cultural institutions have an important role to play in Canada’s reconciliation process.”  Reuss’ piece looks at the role museums and archives play in caring for and presenting materials relating to Indigenous communities and the need to the heritage field to critically responsd to the TRC Calls to Action.

Reuss’ article incorporates comments from Jay Jones, the current president of the Children of Shingwauk ALumni Association and myself.  Jay and I both discuss the unique history of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and the important of Indigenous community perspectives in managing collections.  Jay and his entire family are an inspiration and I am constantly grateful to be able to work with them through my involvement with the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.

Listening: The Henceforward Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and some of those are pure leisure while others inspire critical thinking. Last year I came across The Henceforward, a podcast that “considers the relationships between Indigenous peoples and Black peoples on Turtle Island.”  The podcast aims to “reconsider the past and reimagine the future, in the henceforward.”  It also addresses inter- sectional relationships and “how these relationships can go beyond what has been constructed through settler colonialism and antiblackness”. The podcast is part of the Indian & Cowboy podcast network, which is a network dedicated to Indigenous podcasting and storytelling.

So far The Henceforward has created seven episodes all with different guest contributors and tackling a range of topics including reconciliation, land, DNA/identity, and decolonization. The podcast is produced by Eve Tuck (Unangax) a writer and scholar in Toronto and the University of Toronto.  Contributors have included Stephanie Latty, Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing (Naawakwe giizhigookwe), Hunter Knight, Faith Juma, Lynn Ly, Christy Guthrie, Karima Kinlock, Deanna Del Vecchio, Sefanit Habtom and others.  The podcast has also been mentored by Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân).   It evolved out of a Ontario Institute for Studies in Education course titled Decolonization, Settler Colonialism and Antiblackness offered by Eve Tuck.  The recording of the first season coincided with the #BlackLivesMatterTO public protest.

So far I’ve loved this podcast for the range of topics it has addressed but also for the multiplicity of voices.  Each episode has had a slightly different format but all have emphasized conversations and dialogue while centering Indigenous and Black voices.  The podcast addresses fundamental questions such as what does reconciliation look like.  But it also dives into scholarly debates of both historical and contemporary relationships on Turtle Island.  I could easily see a number of episodes from the first season being used as teaching tools or resources for post-secondary classes when discussing Indigenous communities, blackness, and settler colonialism.  As a note for any new listeners: the sound quality of the episodes gets substantially better as the podcast season progresses and the content is well worth listening past the few segments with poor audio quality.

Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization

My most recent piece is a collaborative post with Skylee-Storm Hogan over at Active History.  The post, “Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization“, looks at the prevalence of the terms Indigenization and decolonization in recent post-secondary conversations.  It also examines meaningful ways in which historians can decolonize and Indigenize their practices.

I am extremely grateful to Skylee-Storm for her contributions on this piece.  I really appreciate her voice and perspectives and it was a delight to work with her on this piece.

Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History

My latest post “Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History” can be seen over at Active History.  The post looks at ten books and articles as a starting point for learning about reconciliation, residential schools and indigenous rights in the context of heritage organizations.

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.