January 2022: Danielle, a teacher at Adam Robertson Elementary School, asked if we can revise our popular “Shaping Our Valley” program for her class. The program was designed for Grade 4; she teaches Grade 7, and wanted us to focus as much as possible on the differences between traditional Ktunaxa land use and settler-colonial land use.
Sure, no problem, we said.
February 2022: Because we needed to divide the class, we invented a second program that challenged the students to look at the Museum’s exhibits and decide whose perspectives are represented. They quickly concluded that some exhibits are beginning to tell multiple stories from multiple perspectives, but the Museum has a lot of work to do in that regard.
We sent them back to class with an assignment: Imagine you are the curators of the Creston Museum, tasked with continuing this work. What do you tackle next, why did you choose that approach, and how do you go about it? Write us a letter explaining that, we said, and we’ll figure out how to do it.
March 2022: Danielle contacted me to say that her students loved the assignment and wanted to turn it into their major project for the spring. Could we accommodate them visiting several times after Spring Break, and would we be willing to welcome their input into our exhibits?
Absolutely, we said.
And that’s how we accidentally fell into one of the coolest, most exciting, most rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of.
Five Elders and Knowledge-Keepers from Yaqan Nukiy – Chris Luke, Cecilia Luke, Janine Basil, Robert Louie, and Robin Louie – met repeatedly with the students, sharing their knowledge of five broad themes in local and Ktunaxa culture. The students created posters for display in the Museum, that summarize their learning from the Elders and outline how they would rebuild the Museum’s exhibits to incorporate that knowledge.
Neither Danielle nor I had the foggiest idea how this would roll out, or what the final outcomes would be. We improvised our way through that project every step of the way…and it worked.
Elder Chris Luke said the students’ desire to learn gave him hope for the future: “This generation knows what Reconciliation means, and they’re taking it forward with them.”