Thunder Bay

Kenora, Ont., museum recognized for preserving, promoting Indigenous culture

The Muse in Kenora, Ont., can take some pride in knowing one of its exhibits in 2019, helped contribute to preserving and promoting Indigenous heritage in the province.
Three women wear jingle dresses, similar to those displayed at the Honouring the Jingle Dress exhibit at The Muse in Kenora, Ont. (themusekenora.ca)

The Muse in Kenora, Ont., can take some pride in knowing one of its exhibits in 2019, helped contribute to preserving and promoting Indigenous heritage in the province.

The museum's exhibit, "Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress" — held in conjunction with the museum's partner, Shiibaashka'Igan — has earned the Ontario Historical Society's Indigenous History Award.

"We also have an Indigenous advisory committee that we consult with, and it was really their idea to do this exhibit," said Lori Nelson, the director of The Muse.

"With some more difficult aspects of our history, with residential schools, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, this time they really wanted to do something that was celebratory of their culture."

"Certainly one of the stories of the origin of jingle dress is from this area, Whitefish Bay area. That's when they decided what we should focus on."

Nelson said the exhibit was interactive, allowing people to hear the sounds the dresses would make when worn by dancers. The dresses have small metal cones on them that make a tinkling sound when they rub together.

The Ontario Historical Society described the exhibit as, "exciting and captivating" as the exhibit used sound and movement to show how the dresses work.

"In their dresses, with shining cones jingling against each other, women dance in a circle around the drum in a clockwise direction following the direction of the sun. The circle itself representing the cycle of life," the society said.

"Over the last many years, what I think has been at the forefront for the Lake of the Woods Museum is representing the whole history of our community, and that has meant working closely with Indigenous partners in the community and Indigenous organizations," said Nelson.

The exhibit was created with women who donated their dresses for the exhibit, Nelson said, which was an honour, noting the display took place during the powwow season.

"We decided not to travel the exhibit," Nelson said, noting requests came in from other groups that wanted to host the display.

"A couple of organizations have reached out to us, and we've been able to chat with them, and they will be producing their own jingle dress exhibit, which is pretty exciting."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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