The Atikokan Centennial Museum has a wonderful exhibit space dedicated to Indigenous history. As this region has a rich Indigenous history dating back 9,000 years, there are many different types of artifacts on display. To offer a few examples, we have hung three beautifully decorated tikinagans in our gallery space. These artifacts are a traditional handicraft made by Ojibway women. Mothers originally used tikinagans as a swaddling cradle to carry their babies. The museum also displays various tools from the Basil Montague Battley Collection. One notable tool is a copper hook that was said (by the donor) to have originated in the western United States. If this story is true, it demonstrates how vast the trading networks were; however, this assertion has never been verified by the museum. Another artifact to note is the regalia loaned to the museum by Jaret Veran, a local Métis man, who danced in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 winter Olympics. These artifacts, and the other objects in the collection, remind visitors that Atikokan's story did not begin with European contact. Since putting up the exhibit, the museum has made efforts to partner with the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre (ANFC). With their assistance, the museum hopes to make the gallery a place that properly represents Indigenous stories in the narratives presented.
Jaret Veran wore this regalia to dance at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The regalia was made by members of his family: Jack Veran, Allison Durand, Evelyn Veran and Linda Fogg. The artwork seen here was done by Linda Fogg. On loan to the Atikokan Centennial Museum by Jaret Veran.
My primary job at the museum has been digitizing the collection. I mainly work with photographs. As I have digitized the records, I have noticed that there were many wonderful photographs of the local Indigenous population in our records. I thought that including photographs in our displays would be a great way to give the space a more human element, giving a face to the community. Moreover, since the museum has limited documentation of the local Indigenous population, our Curator, Lois and I thought that it would be great to have the community help us identify some of the people in these photographs. This idea was partly inspired by the project naming initiative undertaken by Library and Archives Canada.
I recently read an article entitled, "Shadows and Sacred Geography: First Nations History-Making from an Alberta Perspective," which stated that Indigenous photographs "represent personal and emotional memories for them and through them a First Nations viewer may come face to face with past relatives for the first time. Archival photographs constitute for some Native people their earliest, possibly only 'family albums.'"" This idea served as my inspiration. Although I knew that the authors were not talking about an album in the literal sense, I thought that making an album was a great idea. I pulled together all of the photographs I have found thus far (31 in total), and Lois took my scans to get printed. Copies were used in the album to ensure the protection of the originals (which I can say are safety nestled back in their archival boxes.)
I knew what my goals were with this project, but I was not sure the best way to execute it. Lois suggested that I put a page in with every photograph so that people could write information down. This was a good suggestion because it could help us acquire more information, which would undoubtedly result in a more encompassing collection, and it was a way for people to interact with the material we present. I had a fun arts and crafts afternoon putting the project together.
The album turned out great, and it now accompanies our Indigenous history exhibit. In addition, Lois plans on bringing the album to a drop-in session at the ANFC. We hope that this project will allow us to make a greater connection to the local Indigenous population. We will be thrilled to include any information learned about the photographs in our accession records. Our collection is not all-encompassing, but we work hard to make it as inclusive as possible.
 Michael Ross and Reg Crowshoe. Shadows and Sacred Geography: First Nations History-Making from an Alberta Perspective. In Making Histories in Museums. Edited by Gaynor Kavanagh. London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1996., 245.