Mu­seum gallery wins award

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Frank PEE­BLES Cit­i­zen staff fpee­bles@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

Lo­ca­tion is ev­ery­thing in real es­tate. Story is ev­ery­thing in so­ci­ety. There is now a Gover­nor Gen­eral’s His­tory Award lo­cated at The Ex­plo­ration Place, and the rea­sons why make for quite a story.

When your real es­tate is the for­mer site of the area’s 10,000-year-old found­ing cul­ture – whose peo­ple were du­bi­ously re­moved from their an­cient home­site by colo­nial strong-arm­ing only about 100 years ago – the story could be ugly from be­gin­ning to end, un­less you are a mu­seum with rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in mind.

There was unas­sail­able truth to the lo­ca­tion of The Ex­plo­ration Place Mu­seum + Sci­ence Cen­tre. It could be ig­nored. It could be avoided. Or, if you are the board and man­age­ment of a premier cul­tural fa­cil­ity ded­i­cated to his­tor­i­cal truth, you could change the nar­ra­tive by be­ing hon­est and, ac­cord­ing to chief or­ga­niz­ers, sim­ply do­ing what they do best: dis­play his­tory.

The cen­tral fact was, the mu­seum was built right where the Lhei­dli T’en­neh First Na­tion (LTFN) vil­lage once ex­isted. It is a sprawl­ing, beau­ti­ful mu­nic­i­pal park, to­day, but only about 110 years ago it was a thriv­ing com­mu­nity as it had been for mil­len­nia pre­vi­ous. Other than the mu­seum (which in­cludes the rem­nant of the North­West / Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany fort and the op­er­a­tional mini rail­road), the only other fea­ture of note is the orig­i­nal (and still cur­rent) LTFN ceme­tery.

The mu­seum and the First Na­tion had been grow­ing closer over the past 15-20 years, but this past year the re­la­tion­ship saw a mas­sive uptick, and it was that ac­tion that earned them both the shared award.

The two or­ga­ni­za­tions col­lab­o­rated to open a per­ma­nent gallery space in­side The Ex­plo­ration Place ded­i­cated to pre­serv­ing and dis­play­ing the his­tory of the Lhei­dli peo­ple and neigh­bour­ing abo­rig­i­nal cul­tures.

The gallery was named Ho­dul’eh-a: A Place of Learn­ing.

The ef­fort earned them the Gover­nor Gen­eral’s His­tory Award For Ex­cel­lence In Com­mu­nity Pro­gram­ming.

“Ho­dul’eh-a: A Place of Learn­ing is an in­spir­ing model that il­lus­trates the way in which indige­nous and non-indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties can pre­serve and show­case their cul­tural as­sets to pro­mote a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of our his­tory. It is a re­mark­able space that al­lows us to cel­e­brate an indige­nous na­tion in all its rich­ness,” said Janet Walker, pres­i­dent of Canada’s His­tory (the char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­min­is­trates the an­nual awards).

“This honour, shared with our friends from the Lhei­dli T’en­neh Na­tion, is hum­bling,” said Tracy Calogheros, CEO of the mu­seum. “By creat­ing Ho­dul’eh-a: A Place of Learn­ing we are reestab­lish­ing a space in the heart of the Lhei­dli tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory to both learn and teach this gen­er­a­tion and to­mor­row’s lead­ers. To have our coun­try cel­e­brate this decades-long friend­ship by bestow­ing this award upon us means more than I can suc­cinctly ex­press in English, so I will use a Dakelh word to ex­press the depth of our grat­i­tude: snachai­lya.”

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

An ar­ti­fact is dis­played in The Ex­plo­ration Place’s per­ma­nent Ho­dul’eh-a Gallery – mean­ing “Place of Learn­ing” in the Lhei­dli T’en­neh lan­guage.

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