By Sandra Thomas
Carleen Thomas, co-chair of MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver’s Indigenous Voices Advisory Committee (IVAC) alongside Chief Janice George, says the group worked collaboratively with MONOVA to ensure the stories of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations are, and will continue to be, woven throughout MONOVA’s various galleries and exhibits.
With the announcement of MONOVA’s Indigenous History Month programming, which is recognized across Canada every June, Thomas notes while museums are important places to catch a glimpse of the past, it’s also vital they acknowledge the present and look to the future.
“Typically walking into a museum, you just see our past or a time before colonization,” says Thomas. “You know, an ‘ancient man’ kind of thing rather than who we are now, that we’re still here and that we survived all we’ve been through.”
SHOWCASING LOCAL NATIONS, ON THEIR OWN TERMS
Thomas adds it’s very meaningful that MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver offers an opportunity to showcase the two nations past and present — but on their own terms.
“Museums and archives have a responsibility to work collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples to present our history in a very respectful way,” Thomas says. “I think the more that we’re able to work collaboratively together, we get to see how more alike we are than we are different. What’s so true about those kinds of displays in museums is, they’ve been so focused on Indigenous traditions such as fishing but not much about the culture from then forward.”
To that end, Thomas notes she appreciates the fact the Museum of North Vancouver has not only created a permanent gallery to showcase Indigenous stories, but also incorporated them into many of the other exhibits on display.
“That’s important because a whole lot of people really don’t think we exist. They think we assimilated or we disappeared or that we’re simply not here anymore,” says Thomas. “So, it’s important that we have our face, our stories, our presence throughout the museum.”
A MEANINGFUL STEP TOWARDS TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
Thomas adds the Museum’s work with IVAC on Memoranda of Understanding between MONOVA and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Nations is a meaningful step towards Truth and Reconciliation. The memoranda were signed the day before MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver opened in the Shipyards in December 2021.
Thomas says IVAC put in so much work to assist in getting the Museum open, it now has to regroup and look to the future.
Some of the things Thomas would like to see are the inclusion of more recorded stories and an interactive display, which would allow visitors to listen to them.
“Something really contemporary, because a lot of the non-Indigenous worlds don’t know that we’re still here,” says Thomas. “It’s important to show the different kinds of things we do that we can connect back to our ancient history.”
INDIGENOUS HISTORY MONTH AT MONOVA
MONOVA’s team of Indigenous Cultural Programmers have created a number of special events and screenings to coincide with Indigenous History Month, and the public is invited to attend.
Admission to MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver is free for those who self-identify as Indigenous. Special events outside of regular operating hours may be ticketed.
Meet The Matriarchs: Squamish Nation Knowledge Sharers As part of Indigenous History Month, join us at the Museum for a family-friendly event with three generations of Squamish Nation knowledge sharers: Kultsia Barbara Wyss, T’uy’t’tanat Cease Wyss and Senaqwila Wyss. Friday, June 3, 5:00pm – 7:00pm. Tickets: $12 to $20. Purchase tickets here. The Connections Speaker Series is generously supported by the Port of Vancouver.
Indigenous Plants with Senaqwila Wyss Indigenous Cultural Programmer Senaqwila Wyss will share some of her traditional plant knowledge with visitors. Her ancestors have utilized over 125 plants in the local area in teas, salves, oils, poultices, and more. Thursday, June 9, 5:00pm to 6:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
Legends with Senaqwila Wyss Indigenous Cultural Programmer Senaqwila Wyss will share Sḵwx̱wú7mesh teachings and ways of knowing through a series of local legends. Friday, June 10, 1:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
Yarrow Salve Making with Tsawaysia Spukwus Indigenous Cultural Programmer Tsawaysia Spukwus shares her knowledge on Yarrow Salve making. Saturday, June 11, 3:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
In the Muse: Squamish Nation Sea Going Canoe Club Witness a Coast Salish canoe in Museum Muse (formerly Rogers Court). Hear storytelling about canoe journeys, and learn how the canoe got built. Shucks, the skipper will be there. Get your photos taken in canoe. Saturday, June 11, 10:00am to 3:00pm. Tickets: Free.
Coast Salish Wool Weaving with Tsawaysia Spukwus Indigenous Cultural Programmer Tsawasiya Spukwus shares her knowledge of Coast Salish wool weaving, and visitors will learn to weave a simple yet beautiful wool bracelet. Saturday, June 11, 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Language Village Names and Place Names Indigenous Cultural Programmer Senaqwila Wyss will share about village and place names in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Language. Thursday, June 16, 6:00pm to 7:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
Film Screening: The Grizzlies Based on a true story, the film depicts a youth lacrosse team that was set up to help combat an onslaught of youth suicide in the community of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. In a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America, a group of Inuit students’ lives are transformed when they are introduced to the sport of lacrosse. Friday, June 17, 7:00pm. Tickets: Free admission, pre-register here. (Museum gallery will be closed.)
Cedar Rope Making with Tsawaysia Spukwus Indigenous Cultural Programmer Tsawaysia Spukwus shares her knowledge on cedar rope making. Saturday, June 18, 1:00opm to 3:00pm. Tickets: Included with admission.
Film Screening: Smoke Signals Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams) live on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation in Plummer, Idaho. Thomas is an eccentric storyteller and Victor is an angry young man who enjoys playing basketball. Winner of “Best Film” at the 1998 American Indian Film Festival. Friday, June 24, 7:00pm. Tickets: Free admission, pre-register here. (Museum gallery will be closed.)
Film Screening: Brother Bear When a young Inuit hunter needlessly kills a bear, he is magically changed into a bear himself as punishment with a talkative cub being his only guide to changing back. Join us for this 2003 American animated musical fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Saturday, June 25, 5:45 PM Tickets: Free admission, pre-register here. (Museum gallery will be closed.)
Detachment Ceremony – Nature as Teacher: Our Coast Salish World with Marissa Nahanee and Zac George A City of North Vancouver Public Art competition has resulted in a new artwork at MONOVA depicting Coast Salish stories of creation and transformation. These stories have now been brought to life on the windows of the Museum of North Vancouver, by way of a series of colourful, translucent decals created by local Indigenous artists Marissa Nahanee of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation and Zac George of Səl̓ílwətaɬ Nation. Sunday, June 26 at 10:00am. Tickets: Included with admission.
Check back for updates over the month! For details and ticket information, please refer to MONOVA’s homepage.
Coast Salish programming is generously supported by BMO Financial Group.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Help bring stories to life by making a donation today.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.