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