I am very excited to write you from beautiful Nanaimo on the traditional, unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw Nation, where I have been attending the 2019 Heritage BC conference. The annual conference brings together heritage professionals, cultural workers, and conservators to share the professional insights of their work.
This year’s conference has had a tonne of soul-searching as Heritage BC reported on the results of over 20 community roundtable discussions with stakeholders across BC. From these meetings, it became clear that there is much good work taking place across the province diversifying the stories being told in our organizations, but much of this work is taking place in silos. The result is that while lessons are being learned in how to create inclusive and welcoming organizations, these lessons are often not shared with professionals across the field.
It also became clear that many organizations are struggling to tell the whole comprehensive story of the settlement of our province, choosing to focus on the celebratory nature of settlement without acknowledging the harm done to First Nations through colonialism. Throughout the conference, thought-leaders such as Gibsons-based Kamala Todd (City of Vancouver, Indigenous Arts/ Cultural Planner) educated us on ways to move reconciliation beyond tokenism to begin having the challenging conversations needed to reflect a more accurate view of our histories. One approach is to contextualize settler stories within a greater framework that acknowledges the deeper histories and place knowledge held by First Nations who have lived on this land since time immemorial. Kamala’s workshops left her audiences greatly inspired, as did a workshop by Provincial Toponymist Carla Jack. Presenting on the history of BC place names and current naming practices, she focused on the need to acknowledge traditional Indigenous names which often contain highly specific knowledge related to land features.
Carla also spoke about her office’s work in the renaming of Phare Lake to honour John Phare who was killed in the 2015 Sechelt wildfire, stating that “whenever we say the name, we remember him”. As I sit and reflect on the lessons learned over the past three days, my heart is full of hope and inspiration for our ongoing work in creating space at the Museum to tell all of the stories of the Sunshine Coast with respect and integrity.
May 13-19 is International Museum Week – we invite you to come in and explore the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives.