Tuesday, June 21, 2016

National Aboriginal Day!

National Aboriginal Day
By Laura Love
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.