July 14th, 2024

Exhibits at Galt raise awareness on residential school history

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 10, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Adam North Peigan and Tiffany Prete are looking to create awareness about Indigenous history through exhibits currently on display at the Galt Museum.

The Galt Museum hosted the visit of Legacy of Hope Foundation board president Adam North Peigan on Friday coinciding with the Escaping Residential Schools: Running for their Lives exhibit.

The occasion also featured Apooyak’ii / Tiffany Prete who is guest curator of Stolen Kainai Children: Stories of Survival exhibit.

The Escaping Residential Schools: Running for their Lives exhibit was loaned to the Galt Museum by the Legacy of Hope Foundation and will be at the museum until March 3.

“The Legacy of Hope Foundation, we’re a national leading indigenous charitable organization with a mandate to promote and educate mainstream Canadians on the colonization of our people… We’re very, very happy and pleased that the Galt Museum in the City of Lethbridge has taken on the responsibility of hosting this exhibit,” said North Peigan.

North Peigan is from Treaty 7 and is Blackfoot from the Piikani First Nation. He is a product of the Residential School and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop.

The museum says his career “has been spent advocating for Indigenous people and creating awareness of colonialism and oppressive actions as a result of government policies being imposed on the Indigenous people in Canada.”

He voiced an invitation to residents here and outside of Lethbridge area to take the opportunity to visit the exhibit.

“We want to really encourage as many residents from the city of Lethbridge and surrounding area to come out and take a look at this exhibit. Because it’s all about creating awareness, and teaching mainstream Canadians about, our history and the legacy and the contributions of the Indigenous people to Canada,” he said.

The Legacy of Hope Foundation, “a national Indigenous-led charitable organization, has been promoting healing and Reconciliation in Canada for over 24 years. The foundation offers resources, exhibitions, workshops, and research reports to educate and raise awareness about the Residential School System,” says the museum.

Galt Museum executive director Darrin Martens said free admission is being provided by everyone to attend both exhibitions.

“One of the things that we have decided to do is to provide free admission, from today until March 3, allowing people – Indigenous, non-Indigenous – to come in and experience these two exhibitions, which are extremely powerful.

“They hold a lot of knowledge, and it’s a way that we are able to, hopefully, really expand these exhibitions, their reach, and their ability to connect with the southern Alberta community,” said Martens.

Prete, creator of the Stolen Kainai Children: Stories of Survival exhibit, expressed the importance of the exhibit.

“This exhibit is so very important in order for survivors who as children went through these experiences but didn’t actually learn why, didn’t understand why. And so that is pain and trauma that you’re carrying into their adult lives.

“And so being able to have exhibits like this is one way that we can help aid in that understanding and healing. And it’s so important for the public to also understand what has happened, and why this is the experiences that Indigenous peoples have experienced for the past century and a half,” said Prete.

North Peigan said 94 calls to action for reconciliation were tabled and need to be implemented. Among them was one to educate mainstream Canadians on Indigenous history.

Martens said it’s important for museums to explore the past history and the truths they hold.

“It’s important, I believe for museums, to look at history through a very critical lens, and to probe our history. And also to provide opportunities for the community to experience sometimes things that aren’t that pleasant, and to understand that our history is complex, it’s nuanced.

“And as part of the Galt Museum’s commitment to truth and reconciliation, bringing truths forwards for the community, for ourselves is critically important. And also, the opportunity to pair this national exhibition,” said Martens.

North Peigan noted residential schools started in the mid 1800s with the last school closing in 1996 in Saskatchewan.

“You still see our people in urban cities that are still suffering with addictions, homelessness. The opioid crisis is really, really prevalent… And there’s a reason why that has happened.”

“Prete said her exhibit not only focuses on residential schools but also points out varying different school systems the government created during that time to train and assimilate Indigenous children.

“This wasn’t something by accident. It was designed to try and assimilate Indigenous children and to steal their Indigeneity from them,” she said.

Prete said creating her exhibit was an opportunity to discover more about herself and history.

“There are so many questions that I had growing up about being raised by a generation who went through the residential school system. And it was really important to me to be able to learn what has happened because I think not talking about it is also something that has led to some of the trauma that we’re trying to heal from.”

North Peigan also voiced the Indigenous intergenerational trauma that impacts Indigenous generations in todays society.

“We still see that lateral violence within our communities, we still see a high-level of Indigenous children that are in care, we still see a lot of our people that are in custody and in the penitentiary system, we still see a lot of our people that are suffering, and it’s all because of intergenerational trauma that has happened.

“To achieve meaningful reconciliation, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a while,” said North Peigan.

Prete said although generations of Indigenous people have shown resilience, they are still vulnerable and need space and time to heal.

“We really shown resilience through all of these terrible things that have happened. And I think that we need to also remember not to focus so much on the resilience, because we still need the space to heal.”

She added that Indigenous people need to be able to share their experiences and voice to be able to heal.

“We still need the help of people around us to continue to be able to heal. It’s important to have these spaces to be able to teach and understand what has happened, why we need the space to heal into again, continue moving forward, walking the path of the reconciliation together.”

North Peigan emphasized the opportunity to visit the exhibits at the Galt Museum before March.

“I strongly encourage as many of our people in the Lethbridge area, make their way come down to Galt Museum and take this exhibit in because it’s only here until March 3, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so let’s get out there and make it happen and let’s get our people out.”

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