The Rossland Museum launched a new exhibit celebrating the Sinixt on National Aboriginal Day.
Students from Rossland Summit School (RSS) paid a visit to the museum last Wednesday, where they were not only some of the first to see the new Sinixt exhibit, but where they also got the chance to meet Judge Wynecoop, a member of the Spokane Tribe and a descendant of the Arrow Lakes/Sinixt people.
Wynecoop talked to the children about the importance of huckleberries to the Sinixt people and about his own huckleberry picking.
One of the items on display in the new exhibit is a coiled cedar root berry picking basket that belonged to Phoebe Wynecoop, daughter-in-law of Nancy Perkins Wynecoop, Judge’s grandmother. The basket is currently on loan to the museum from Judge and his wife Tina, who was also attended Aboriginal Day at the museum.
She helped Judge present to the children and brought some huckleberry jam, made from the berries Judge picked, for the kids to try.
Eileen Delehanty Pearkes also helped out with the presentation.
Pearkes is the author of The Geography of Meaning: Recovering Stories of a Landscape’s First People and connected the museum with the Wynecoops, who worked with the museum to develop the Sinixt exhibit.
She came to the Aboriginal Day celebration to “help complete the connection,” but after technical difficulties with some films the kids were supposed to view, she stepped in to help talk about the history of the Sinixt in the region.
When Judge and Tina were asked what they most wanted people to know about the Sinixt, Tina said, “The huckleberries and the Sinixt are still here and he’s not extinct,” and her husband agreed with her.
For her part, Joelle Hodgins, museum director, is happy that the Wynecoops are happy with the exhibit.
“We’re really happy that the family is happy, that was kind of the most important aspect of it, and that anyone was willing to loan things to us so we could get something in there,” she said. “It’s certainly a modest display, but I think it’s kind of important to show what we can with an expression that it deserves to be bigger.”
Hodgins hopes that the exhibit will continue to grow, and one of the RSS classes even contributed something for the exhibit.
Bridget O’Malley’s Grade 4, 5 and 6 class has been studying past discriminatory practices in Canada and have specifically looked at the Truth and Reconciliation process and the history of indigenous peoples in Canada.
“The residential school system, that’s a major part of our curriculum now that we’re educating students on that true history and then part of that is to move the students through the reconciliation process,” explained O’Malley.
As part of the reconciliation process, students created an art piece in response to what they learned and donated it to the museum.
“This art piece represents their connection with that commitment to being part of building a renewed relationship with Aboriginal people in Canada,” said O’Malley.
The students were aided in their studies by Vicki Geravelle, RSS’s aboriginal education support teacher.
Geravelle shared her friend’s story about what it was like to go to residential school with O’Malley’s class.
“A lot of them asked about the government. You know, how could the government do that?” explained Geravelle.
Both the Sinixt exhibit and the class’ artwork will be on display during the museum’s grand reopening on Friday, June 30, 5 to 7 p.m.