Treaty medals, First Nations artifacts come together in exhibit
Curator hopes exhibit at Manitoba Museum will open dialogue on current treaty situation
A new museum exhibit is looking to balance the conversation of Manitoba's historical land treaties.
The exhibit We Are All Treaty People opened Thursday at the Manitoba Museum in collaboration with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba.
For the first time, almost every Manitoba Treaty medal is in one place. The historical medals commemorate the signing of treaties between the Crown and First Nations people.
The exhibit is unique because each medal has been matched with First Nations sacred pipes and pipe bags. These represent aboriginal involvement in the treaties, according to Maureen Matthews, the exhibit's curator.
"It's surprising how many people don't have any idea about the treaties," she said. "They think it's in the past. It's not in the past. It really matters now and we've gone to a lot of trouble to exhibit a lot of objects that are significant to aboriginal people for that reason."
Matthews said it's increasingly rare for museums to display sacred artifacts like pipes or pipe bags.
In order to ensure these objects were respected, the museum consulted with aboriginal leaders, including the AMC Elders Council, and had a sacred ceremony held at the museum.
She said she hopes the exhibit will open up dialogue on Manitoba's current treaty situation.
"Bringing the objects together has created a space where honest things can be said about the treaty relationship as it exists now and might be in the future," she said.
"There's two ways of looking at a treaty…. Where Canada might look at it as a contract to achieve control of lands, aboriginal people look at as a covenant — as a promise meant to last forever, made in the eyes of gods."
The exhibit runs until October.