Métis Exhibit Opens at Welland Historical Museum
By Stephen Quesnelle, President, Niagara Region Métis Council
It all started with a little girl, my granddaughter, Rebecca. In March, 2009, she asked me to make a presentation to her class because she was doing a project on the Métis. With great apprehension I agreed to do it. I thought it would only be for a few grade six students, no big deal. When I got to the school, the teacher asked if she could include another class; I thought: why not? Then I heard that there were two reporters present to cover my presentation, well need I say, I was about to have an anxiety attack. I knew if I could not do this my granddaughter would be embarrassed; I had no choice, but to continue. After the presentation I felt great. I saw the awe in the faces of the children as I spoke about the Métis and how we were a big part of exploring and developing this great country called “Canada”. They had many questions; the presentation had opened their minds to a part of Canada’s history that they were unaware of.
A teacher from St. Elizabeth School in Wainfleet saw the article in the Welland Tribune and called me to ask if I would appear before her grade eight students in March 2009. After that presentation another teacher who had attended, approached me and said that I should contact a friend of hers at the Welland Historical Museum, Penny Morningstar, Curator of the museum. She said that Penny might be interested in my presentation. I contacted Penny and a meeting was arranged.
I met with Penny and Cal Bursey, in April, 2009, and discussions were started to bring about this display. We were very excited about the plans that were being made. I am truly sorry that Cal is not here to see the finished product of our plans and dreams. One of the things discussed, was for us to do our Métis presentation whenever a class came through the museum, if requested. An agreement was signed with the museum; the funding was received, and we got the “ok” to begin.
I must say, there were many times I would enter the museum and think, “we are not going to be finished by opening day”. Penny felt my apprehension, and kept telling me not to worry; the display would be finished in time. I should have known that with the combined knowledge and experience of Penny Morningstar, Nora Reid, Jody Dickinson and Lori Burns, it would be finished in time.
Well, by opening day, November the 19th, 2011, it was completed, and I must admit, Penny was right.
We owe a great deal of thanks to the staff of the museum for all their hard work and dedication; they have done an awesome job on this display.
I would like to thank Judy Baxter for her work with the museum staff and the council (She has been amazing.); Glen Lipinski for all his advice and his help with the set-up of the display; the students and teacher at Jean Vanier High School for the impressive job that they did building a replica of the Red River Cart and the crates for this display; and, Tracey-Mae Chambers, a very talented Métis artist who painted and donated to the council the picture of the canoe that you see, above the Red River Cart.
The Infinite History exhibit was covered by both Niagara this Week and The Welland Tribune. The following quotation from the museum’s Executive Director, Nora Reid, appeared in Niagara This Week: “We need to know all the cultures who have made the Canadian mosaic; I think it’s wonderful we can showcase a hidden part of Canadian history.”
The Tribune noted that Penny Morningstar, Curator of the Welland Historical Museum, had told the crowd that one of the best things about working in a museum is that she has a chance to educate museum visitors about pieces of important Canadian history they may not have known, including the Métis. She added: “Museums don't sugar coat the truth.”
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