Inclusion and Exclusion: Exploring Indigenous Under-Representation at the Canadian Museum of History

by Heather White

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ABSTRACT

This article examines Indigenous representations in Canadian society, and how cultural institutions such as the Museum of History have helped to shape peoples understandings of Indigenous cultures. Representations in education and in the media are analyzed, and provide context for the ways in which Indigenous peoples continue to be marginalized. The Museum of History is then used as a case study, and allows readers to explore the lack of Indigenous voices within the space. Specific exhibits such as the Great Hall and the First Peoples Hall are examined in order to display that this lack of Indigenous voices is a problem that exists throughout the museum. The museum could potentially bridge the gap between Western methods of display and Indigenous curatorial practices, and to help Indigenous peoples reclaim their cultural representations at the same time. They have already integrated an Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices, and by getting involved in curatorial practices, Indigenous peoples can then include themselves in the national narrative of Canada. This article seeks to promote the inclusion of Indigenous voices and curatorial practices in the Museum of History, and to demonstrate how they could function as decolonization tools that would benefit both Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

KEY WORDS

Decolonization, Canadian Museum of History, representation, Indigenous curation

BIOGRAPHY

Heather White was born in 1992 in St. John’s, NL and at two years old she moved with her family to Yellowknife, NT to start a new adventure. Heather started and finished her schooling in Yellowknife and since then completed one year at St. Thomas University in NB, one year in a Study Abroad program at the University of Leeds in the UK and is set to graduate in Spring 2015 from Carleton University in Ottawa with a Bachelor of Arts in Canadian Studies. During Heather’s upbringing in Canada’s North, isolation was a fact of life and Indigenous populations as common in the north as the snow that blankets the ground and the darkness that prevails for a large part of the year. Her exposure to the isolation and to the Indigenous populations have very much influenced her research interests. She hopes to continue doing work related to her interests in Indigenous representation and cultural revival. In keeping with this, she has designed an activity for the Museum of History that would help visitors to better understand the cultural significances of the totem poles that are housed in Great Hall. In her spare time, Heather most enjoys traveling. In the near future Heather will return to her home in the North to seek employment however she hopes to return to England in the future to further her studies.