British Columbia

Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and Prince George museum receive Governor General award for historic partnership

Hodul'eh-a: A Place of Learning seeks to repatriate Lheidli T'enneh cultural items from around the world and centre them in a museum located on traditional lands that are now a major city park in Prince George.

2 B.C. teachers and North Vancouver writer Daniel Francis also honoured

The Hodul’eh-a: A Place of Learning exhibit will have rotating items, including some on long-term loan from the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

A historic partnership between the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and Exploration Place Museum in Prince George is being honoured with a Governor General's History Award in Ottawa Nov. 22.

The permanent gallery Hodul'eh-a: A Place of Learning is one of two winners in the excellence in community programming category, alongside Quebec's Société d'histoire de Sherbrooke for its History Goes to the Market event.

Hodul'eh-a: A Place of Learning opened on National Aboriginal Day 2017, June 21. The same day, the museum and the First Nation signed an agreement making Exploration Place the official repository of all Lheidli T'enneh artifacts and cultural materials.

The exhibit begins by having visitors enter through a stylized replica of a traditional pit house before exploring items that include leatherwork and stone tools up to 9,000 years old, as well as information about contemporary life for the Nation, such as its partnership in hosting the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

The agreement also includes instructions for the museum to attempt to repatriate any Lheidli T'enneh items currently held in other collections.

An excavation this summer in Prince George's Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park has unearthed a number of historical human remains. The excavation was in preparation to build a new pavilion which will feature public art depicting Lheidli T'enneh language, culture and history. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It's about making sure we all understand our history, both collective and pre-contact," said Exploration Place CEO Tracy Calogheros.

"It just gives an opportunity for people to be able to talk to each other ... and you can ask questions."

The museum stands in the recently re-named Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park, which was the site of a Lheidli T'enneh village before the homes were destroyed in 1913  to make way for the railway and city. 

That history continues to surface as even this past year multiple bodies believed to belong to Lheidli ancestors were found as crews prepared to build a new picnic shelter and pavilion in the park.

Those bodies are also being held by the museum until an appropriate resting place can be found.

"It's so, that as we're standing side by side and moving forward into the next 100 and 200 years, we're doing it fully aware of how we got to where we are today," Calogheros explained.

Teacher Glen Thielmann, Exploration Place Museum CEO Tracy Calogheros and Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominick Frederick speak with Cariboo-Prince George MP in Ottawa ahead of the Prince George trio receiving history awards from the Governor General. (Todd Doherty)

Another Prince George resident, DP Todd Secondary School teacher Glenn Thielmann, is being honoured for his Skookum Stories project, which encourages students to research their own family history using interviews, recipe books and family heirlooms.

Thielmann is one of eight people receiving an Excellence in Teaching award, a category that also includes Vancouver Island's Chemainus Secondary School teacher Janet Ruset.

The other B.C. honouree is North Vancouver historian and author Daniel Francis, who is the recipient of this year's Pierre Berton Award for popular media.