Being Small is No Problem At All: The Reconciliation Project
By Tammy Bradford, Manager of Creston Museum
I’m not sure this project should be featured among change-makers, because that term implies some kind of deliberate intent and neither I nor Danielle Sonntag, the teacher we worked with, planned anything. We kind of fell into it and figured it out as we went along. But, oh, what an impact it has had!
It started with a simple program to help Grade 7 students understand Ktunaxa traditions within the local settler context. It expanded into a major project where the students learned directly from Ktunaxa Elders and then identified ways to incorporate Ktunaxa knowledge into exhibits here at the Creston Museum.
It expanded into a major project where the students learned directly from Ktunaxa Elders…
Twenty-one students and five Elders and knowledge-keepers took part, plus two Aboriginal Education coordinators, the Aboriginal Education representative of the Creston Valley Teachers’ Union, and members of Lower Kootenay Band council. The students visited the Museum six times, meeting with the Elders and knowledge-keepers three times and working on their exhibit ideas in between.
Each Elder worked with a small group of students within one of five exhibits at the Museum. The Elders shared their knowledge and experience, and the students created presentations that outlined both the Elders’ knowledge and how they would incorporate it into the exhibits. Those presentations are now on display in the Museum and we’ll be working with Danielle’s classes next year and beyond to actually redevelop the exhibits as this year’s students have envisioned.
Seeing the students so completely engaged with the Elders was one of the most wonderful, exhilarating career experiences I’ve ever had. The students were absolutely thrilled to be invited to shape the Museum’s practice going forward – that’s as much a first for us as it is for them. They’re approaching me on the street, asking how things are going at the Museum, when we’ll start the next phase of the project, and even inquiring about future summer jobs (this has also never happened before).
The Elders and Indigenous participants were very positive, too. Josie Fullerton, Aboriginal Education coordinator at Adam Robertson Elementary School, never thought she would see a project like this in her lifetime. Elder Chris Luke said the students’ desire to learn gave him hope for the future: “This generation knows what Reconciliation means, and they’re taking it forward with them.”
For the Creston Museum, we’ve taken a huge stride forward in our efforts to build Reconciliation into all of our work and established very good relationships with the Yaqan Nukiy community. We have some absolutely brilliant exhibit-design ideas from the students. And we have ongoing partnerships to make them happen.
Elder Chris Luke said the students’ desire to learn gave him hope for the future: “This generation knows what Reconciliation means, and they’re taking it forward with them.”
Have there been challenges? Yes – some push-back from one student and their parents; school administrators and my own board of directors not actively supportive until after it hit Global News; one anonymous phone message telling me that “this is terrible” and “we should be ashamed of ourselves” for “systematically destroying everything to do with colonialism.”
Well, as I say, we didn’t plan this, but if we had, “systematically destroying colonialism” would have been exactly what we set out to do. So I’m going to take that last bit as a compliment.