Tuesday, June 21, 2016

National Aboriginal Day!

National Aboriginal Day
Today marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day in Canada. This day was first established in 1996 by Romeo LeBlanc, the Governor General at the time. After a national meeting was organized between The Sacred Assembly of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal spiritual leaders in 1995, it was agreed and encouraged that the federal government declare a ‘National First Peoples Day’ on or around the Summer Solstice as a day of unity, celebration, and to acknowledge the contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian society. This is also a day of reflection, to not only recognize and celebrate the bountiful gifts given to Canadian heritage by the Metis, Inuit and First Nations, but to also consider the darker side of this shared history.
There is a view that the residential school system is something of the past, an event that has little to no prevalence to today. There were over 150,000 children that went through these schools, 139 of these schools were federally funded across Canada and in Alberta alone there were 25 schools, the last of which closed in 1975. The total number of schools in Canada does not include the additional church run facilities.
Historica Canada has released the newest addition to their one minute history extracts of Canadian history. Most often told from the perspective of the settler, this year Heritage Minutes, instead of using an actor, has included a real live person. This is not a story from past eras, nor a portrayal of a historical figure, it is of a memory of a person that is still living, and of an event that is not so far back into our history that we need an actor to portray it. This acknowledgment of the relevance of residential schools and the impact it has on our contemporary society, can help continue the healing process. 
As a part of this healing process, the museum, in partnership with The Sagitawa Friendship Society, welcome everyone to explore an artistic interpretation of Canadian history by Ha-yalth-kingemecalled, ‘Witness Blanket.’ This exhibit will run from July 1st to the 27th of August and as requested by the artist admission is free.

Attached below is the website of Historica Canada where you can find their new video:https://www.historicacanada.ca/

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The "Good Ol Days" were not good for everyone...

By Carson Murphy, Archivist

June is LGTBQ Pride month, and is also the time the LGBTQ community looks back on its heritage. The topic has been getting increasing academic attention lately which is excellent! Much like the history of women, minorities and people of lower social-economic status, lesbians, gays and other members of the LGBTQ community have been largely silent in Canada’s historical narrative. Its silence however should by no means be taken as a sign it didn’t exist, or that these individuals did not play major roles in our history. Indeed, the true scope of how many historical persons may or may not be ‘closeted’ makes for an interesting discussion, although one for another time. Because homosexuality was not supposed to exist and was often practiced covertly, it becomes a challenge to piece together the different historical narratives of this community.

A group of men on a boat, from the Peace River Museum, Archives and
 Mackenzie Centre collection, PRMA1981.1194.221.
It is a history that comes with a lot of reading between the lines to piece it together. For example. When you think about the narrative of the settlement of Alberta, the story speaks of all the men that moved out here to claim their homestead, and start their farm. The narrative relates how, at least in the early days, men drastically outnumbered women. Now when you read between the lines, you see a land of opportunity – of adventure with fewer rules, fewer people, fewer parsons, and mostly other young, single men. You can’t tell me that what held the appeal for many ‘straight’ men couldn’t have had the same for ‘gay’ ones.

Two unidentified women, from the Peace River Museum,
Archives and Mackenzie Centre's new collection.
Homosexuality was something that happened at the fringes, in the background, that might cross tongues, but seldom made it to paper, and would never come up in polite conversation.  When you look for it, you find it occasionally amongst the plainly stated “good friends”, “companion” or “lodger”, as if that was all it ever was, and perhaps it was.  It seems, whether it was naivety or some form of tolerance, sometimes, in some places, LGBTQ peoples could find some relationships and companionship, provided there was no spectacle and the outward appearance of social decency wasn’t marred.

I like to focus on those glimmers in the LGBTQ history, because the bulk of it tends to be pretty sad. When you consider the number of people who had to live unhappy lives, who faced ostracism, discrimination, and incarceration for things they couldn’t change or help. Living alone fearing they were the only ones. The past certainly was not the ‘good ol days’ for everyone. It’s an interesting thing to keep in mind the next time you look at your family history – who did and didn’t get married, if they moved away, their dreams and aspirations, you never know what might emerge.

Sometimes it’s really tempting to want to time travel, and somedays it really feels like I would be more at home in another time, but then I think how my life would change. And I’m not talking about modern medicine, and hot water (although those are usually two of many reality checks which keep me happy to be here), but more personally I think of how I wouldn’t be able to go out with my significant other, or get married, or likely have family and friends who would love and support me for who I am. And that’s what keeps me happy to be in the 21st century, although there is much left to accomplish on the road to equality, acceptance and even tolerance as the recent tragedy in Orlando has shown us.  

This post is dedicated to the anonymous men, women and everyone in between; who in the past, have faced discrimination, hatred, abuse, anxiety, fear and loneliness because of who they were and who they loved.
Two photographs of unknown people - as normal looking as you or I.
Who knows what their stories were. From a collection of photographs
recently donated to the Peace River Museum, Archives and
Mackenzie Centre.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Artist for the Month of May

Alain Belzile’s works, currently on exhibit on the art wall, are vibrant, bold and full of texture.  You will see by this exhibit that he has impressive creative  facility with canvass and paint. 

Alain is a native of Peace River who first schooled in fine arts at  Red Deer College and later in graphic design at Grande Prairie Regional College.  He says he has always ‘been an artist at heart’.  As a student at Glenmary School he was awarded the Best Artist and credits teacher Sheena Wolfe (nee McNiff) as a strong influence in his decision to further his art. He believes that passion for your work is more critical than technical know-how.

Alain’s work as a graphic artist, creating brochures, advertising, logos and other promotional products has kept him busily employed in the Peace over the years. Pursuing both art forms taps into his desire to be expressive in both the world of computer design and textual art.

He says that creativity is the driving force behind his ideas for promotional items and his painting. While at Red Deer College he experimented with glass blowing, sculpture and bronze casting. You can see these influences in the works on exhibit.
No admission is charged to view this exhibit and other art works in the Museum Gift Shop.




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Finally – Métis status recognized

(Sources: Sylvia Johnson, president Métis Nation of Alberta Region 6; Pape, Salter, Teillet LLP Barristers and Solicitors; Canadian Encyclopedia; APTN National News; Global News; Active History.ca - History Matters))

Mr. St. Germain (left) and Mr. Alex Mackenzie (right) at the first Agricultural Show in Peace River, 1911. Both of these men were Metis and married Metis women. Now it will be possible for their descendants to receive Metis status and the rights of Indians. PRMA1980.1137.1.015, F010 Greta Dow fonds.

The Métis people have been fighting literally and figuratively for status – for identity – since the Constitution Act of 1867, building to the Daniels Case.

“This all hinged on the fact that when the treaties were signed, Riel and all the leaders and everybody from them – Dumont – everybody had said you’ve provided for us on paper. You’ve got our name there that you will make sure that the Métis, who are considered Indians – that’s the big point – are now not considered road allowance people with nothing and a nuisance and there’s been no provision for them. So, what is there for the Métis?’, says Sylvia Johnson, president Métis Nation of Alberta Region 6.

“And Riel, as he said, you can hang me, but you will not kill all the Métis. We might have lost the battle, but we didn’t lose the war. That war will go on and we will see the day – unfortunately, John [A] MacDonald won’t be there to see the day we have a big victory. But it will come, I assure you, it will come. You’ll not get rid of the Métis. You will never wipe them out.”

Métis being left out from what was rightfully theirs, according to the 1899 treaty, has lingered since. But, Harry Daniels, “a big, strong Métis” picked up the pace and appealed to the Supreme Court to answer the question – if the Métis were not Indians, “who are we?” He referred to 85 boxes of documents, saying the Métis people have rights. “These documents say you owe us these rights.”
The reason for going to the Supreme Court was because the lesser courts had denied the Métis, based on the evidence they were presented. More years went by as they dug deeper. Then they went to the Court of Appeal to decide once and for all, whether they were Indians and thus entitled to the rights of the Indian.

“So, they said OK. We put all our chips in – one spin of the roulette wheel. It’s going to the Supreme Court of Canada Appeal Board – six judges – all white – sitting there,” Johnson says. The six judges regarded the 85 boxes of documents and the wording they contained. After considerable deliberation, “Yes, unanimously, they decided we [Métis] are Indians. We are Indians and we are entitled to rights.

Canada’s highest court was asked to rule on three points: that Métis and non-status Indians were “Indians” under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867; that the federal government had a fiduciary [trust] duty and an obligation to negotiate and consult on their rights. The Court granted the first point, and rejected the final two points because it would be “restating settled law”.

“Under the Constitution Act, there are three status. There always was – Inuit, First Nation and Métis. They always agreed we were part of that. But, we were never given anything – never any status. They even called us a non-profit association and didn’t give us the status of being a nation of people that are Métis.” Johnson admitted there are some “First Nations treaty people” who are not happy with the fact the Métis status is recognized. The reason, she says, is because it is an unknown – not known how it will affect them. She emphasizes, “It’s about what is our rights – our rights in government consultation – in consultation regarding the Métis – consultation regarding industry … There’s all these pipelines. We’ve been saying to them – you have to deal with us.” They disagreed.

Things changed with the Supreme Court ruling – 17 years in the making since 1999, when Henry Daniels and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples first pursued it. On his death in 2004, son, Gabriel, was added as plaintiff to ensure a Métis representative was maintained as plaintiff. The case first went to trial in 2011 – finally making it to the Supreme Court in 2015.

On May 9, a gathering of Métis people of Region 6 and supporters, celebrated the April 14 good news, affecting more than 600,000 Métis and non-status people across Canada, at Riverfront Park. The May 9 date coincided with the date of the North West Rebellion (May 9-12), which culminated with the Battle of Batoche led by Louis Riel in 1885.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

International Museum's Day!

On Wednesday, May 18th 2016, the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre will be celebrating INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM’S DAY! This event is celebrated internationally to raise awareness of the importance of museums as crucial community centres, institutions of knowledge, cultural exchange and locations of enjoyable learning and has been celebrated by the ICOM (The International Council of Museums) since 1977.

We decided to celebrate with a cake!
The term ‘museum’ has held many different meanings since being translated by the classical Greek word, mouseion, meaning ‘the seat of muses.’ The first ‘museum’ of this context is thought to have been the Museum at Alexandria, the great library that held irreplaceable manuscripts of science and math, and where great scholarly debate occurred. In the early 15th century the definition of museum would be used to describe the collection of Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, that included fine art, sculpture and manuscript. This did however put more of an emphasis on the comprehensive of the collection itself and less about philosophical discussion and academic pursuits as the Museum at Alexandria did. Changing again, in 17th Century Europe, museum was being used to describe what were called, ‘Cabinets of Curiosities.’ These rooms were characterised by “haphazard assemblages of
curious, wondrous, or singular things.” Souvenirs were collected usually by the master of the house from his ‘Grand Tours’ and kept in his own private museum.  If these private collections were transferred in any way to a library or university, which in many cases they were, a separate building would have been built to house and accommodate these items. Thus, the idea of an institution called a museum, an establishment to preserve and display a collection to the public was well established in the 18th century.

Today, museums have taken on an even more encompassing definition. In 2007, the International Council of Museums agreed that, ‘A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.’

This year, The ICOM has dedicated the 2016 theme of International Museum’s Day to, ‘Museums and Cultural Landscapes.’ The IOCM has released this statement for this year, “The theme Museums and Cultural Landscapes makes museums responsible for their landscapes, asking them to contribute knowledge and expertise and take an active role in their management and upkeep. The primary mission of museums is to oversee heritage, whether it be inside or outside their walls. Their natural vocation is to expand their mission and implement their own activities in the open field of cultural landscape and heritage that surrounds them and for which they can assume varying degrees of responsibility.”

The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie recognizes and takes the role of cultural organization, in our gathering of our community’s history, traditions, oral histories and preservation of tangible items seriously. 

The Peace River Museum will be open from 10am to 7pm on Wednesday, May 18th 2016 for a Museum Open House! Do you have ANY questions about donation or loan procedures? Or would you like to know the process that an item goes through once accepted into the museum’s permanent collection? Please, come with your questions, and have an exclusive sneak peek into the Peace River Museum, Archives, and Mackenzie Centre’s world!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Artists of the Month - May 2016

Tanys Oxman with her students' work

Glenmary School -  FNMI Art Class

The members of the Peace of Art club sponsor and organize the art wall at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre for monthly exhibits of local and regional artists. Every May the art wall focus is on student art from the region. Peace of Art and the Museum & Archives share the value of nurturing young people to explore the personal expressions that the visual arts offers artist and viewer alike.

This May features the work of Glenmary School First Nations, Métis and Inuit Art Projects under the leadership of Tanys Oxman. Ms. Oxman inspired the students to research a Canadian Aboriginal visual artist that impressed them. Their research gave them understanding about the artist’s life, artistic style and what inspired their work. From this research, the students then created a their own art work based on one of those artists.

Inspired by Norval Morisseau
Canadian artists selected by these students included Norval Morisseau, Roy Henry Vickers, Aaron Paquette and Robert Houle.


As well, Ms. Oxman taught the students how to create traditional beaded works and the teachings behind the different motifs used. For first time beaders, Ms. Oxman is most impressed with the quality each student invested in their work.

"Roy Henry Vickers inspired me because of the way his background colours blend and go together.” Hannah



Friday, April 29, 2016

Larry Loyie

Constance and Larry - Book launch at the Peace River Museum 2014

Author, philosopher, gentle Cree man

It is with sincere sadness that we convey the news of Larry Loyie’s passing April 18, 2016.  As staff of the Museum and Archives, we had the pleasure of knowing both Larry and his partner and co-author Constance through book launches of his acclaimed titles and through their visits when they travelled in this part of the northern boreal forest. Often the visits would coincide with travels to our regional schools to share Larry’s stories with the children, which was always a great pleasure of Larry’s.

Larry was born in Slave Lake and spent his childhood living a traditional Cree lifestyle with his family until he was taken to Grouard to the St. Bernard Mission residential school. Through this experience, his education was disrupted and  it was not until he was 50 years old that he returned to school to fulfill his lifelong goal to become an author – and what an expressive author he became.

Together, he and Constance published numerous books about the Aboriginal culture and heritage of northern Alberta. As an author and a speaker, he spoke gently but firmly about the impacts of the world war, the teachings of Elders, the residential school system and the importance of treating everyone with respect. Throughout his writings, his gentle nature, his humour as well as his seriousness, communicated to the reader his strong respect for his Cree culture and heritage and his open mind and optimism for tomorrow.

The last time we saw Larry and Constance was at Donnelly, Alberta at the Société  historique et généalogique de Smoky River where they had come to thank the volunteers at the centre for their help with researching their book Residential Schools - ever acknowledging people who supported them. I believe Larry Loyie’s legacy will be in having sown seeds for a kinder and gentler place for us all to live in.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Peace River Warehouse District 100th Year

It seemed fitting to take a stroll throughout the Warehouse District of Peace River, which served so many communities – people – in the Peace Country North during the Warehouse District’s and Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday. Staff of your Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, along with members of the Heritage Places Committee, hosted the stroll on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, April 10.

The stroll began with a gathering at Athabasca Hall (built 1936) and a tour, by Lorne Mann, owner of the former Crown Building, under his renovation direction. Following a tour of the building by its passionate renovating owner, the group continued on its way – not exactly following in Jane Jacobs’ footsteps, but nevertheless, observing the essence of her encouragement – to look and listen – observe, absorb, appreciate our surroundings – value them – be willing to change when community and people will benefit, but willing to not, when the sense of community would diminish.

Yes, she advocated for not only smelling the roses, but, also taking time to see the roses’ surroundings – environment – the bees – other insects – the effect of the wind stirring the petals – their affect on you – the community – and so much more.

  • PRMA1980.1150.001 – The Warehouse District on east side of Peace River showing the Midland & Pacific Elevator on the left and the S. S. Athabasca on dry dock on the right of the photo. The exact year unknown, but believed to be prior to 1919.

 Jane is quoted: No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at … suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk. That’s what the April 10 stroll/walk/conversation/sharing memories/gathering did.

 She refers to cities, but we in rural communities, would do well to take note. Her credentials are immense – one only needs to research them to appreciate this multi-awarded American-born Canadian resident woman’s accomplishments pertaining to community – people comprising that community – people and their need to be part of a viable, comfortable place to live for generations.

“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance – not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is replete with new improvisation.” – Jane Jacobs, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Its Wildlife Week! And Canada Celebrates an Important Anniversary!!

Canada is celebrating a very important centenary this week! The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States. This treaty embraces the important need to conserve our wildlife, as well as their habitats, and focuses on all of the wonderfully winged birds (that is, if it does not include insects and bats who also have wings) that inhabit our skies. And it just so happens that the week of April 10th is Wildlife Week!

This conservation work began with John Thomas Miner, also known as Jack Miner, or the ‘Father of North American Conservationism.’ Growing up in Ontario, Jack’s careful observation of the migratory bird path began when he noticed that Canada geese were stopping on ponds on his property in the spring on their way northward. From this, Miner had seven clipped, tame Canada geese and created ponds on his property in 1904 to attract more wild species of birds. By 1913, his entire property became a bird sanctuary for all creatures with wings. Three years later he pioneered the banding (the process of attaching a small metal or plastic band around a bird's leg in order to identify individual birds from the band's unique number) of migrating waterfowl. The data that was collected through this was instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States of America and Canada as no government banding programs had been in existence until that time.

Coming forward to today, gathering baseline data in aid of further understanding breeding birds is the mandate of the northern Alberta Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC). The BCBC is the only educational and research facility in the world strategically located to study boreal birds on their breeding grounds. Located in Lesser Slave Lake, the BCBC also contributes to the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory.  This project monitors landbird migrations using daily mistnetting (capturing birds in nets using a procedure developed at the Manomet Bird Observatory), visible migration counts (recording every bird species observed within a defined space at set intervals) and casual observance.

The Peace River is an important stopping area
for many migratory birds in the boreal.

PRMA. 2008.082.013
Yet another organization in our area that is not only concerned with birds, but all wildlife in our boreal forest is the internationally acclaimed project called EMEND (Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance). EMEND is a forest research centre located north of Dixonville dedicated to improving our understanding of how the western boreal forest ecosystem responds to disturbances, natural ones (such as fire or pest infestation) and human ones (such as harvesting).

Wildlife Week is celebrated each year around April 10th, Jack Miner’s birthday, to honour Jack Miner and to celebrate conservation successes as well as bringing awareness to issues still challenging the survival of our wildlife.

If you want to learn more about EMEND, the museum is hosting EMEND 101, exploring how the research gathered through EMEND impacts our environmental stewardship.  We will see you on April 14th 2016, 7pm at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre.