Culture News

Bringing ‘buried history back to life’

BY LINDSAY BRISCOE

The Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre’s newest exhibit aims to “discover the past in order to educate the future.”

Through exploring archeological techniques and highlighting the work done at several archaeological sites in the Red Lake area, exhibit visitors will see the kind of artifacts that are typically unearthed in a dig. They will also learn the artifacts’ use as well as how they would have been made.

“In essence, we bring buried history back to life for our learning,” explains the Heritage Centre’s Trevor Osmond.

The project started as an idea in November, 2013 between Osmond and his former colleague, who are both archaeologists.

“Generally speaking, archaeology tends to intrigue people. It captures their imagination and sense of adventure. Red Lake has its own unique archeological history, and we wanted to highlight that the adventure lies close to home.”

The project meant wading through reports to interpret the history, working with cultural advisors about what to highlight, and finding ways to present the Heritage Centre’s artifacts to let visitors explore what an “archaeological find” looks like in real life. Osmond even leant his old dig clothes to the exhibit.

Many individuals, organizations and funders such as the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Lakehead University, Goldcorp and Rubicon played a vital role in the process.

Local Kaaren Dannenmann as well as Donald Coppenance, executive director of the Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre, acted as cultural advisors on the project.

“My people come from this area and we know where they lived and worked and had ceremonies so we just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any desecration done,” Dannenmann told The Northern Sun News. “There are some parts, even within the town here, where residences have been built over burial sites and ceremonial sites.

“There’s a burial site at Forestry Point,” she explains. “Before Red Lake was flooded – Red Lake is up several feet than what it traditionally was and so the point was a lot wider – it was a ceremonial site out there and you can still see the rings of rock where ceremonies took place. That was the centre of what now is called a pow wow. But that whole area was also a burial site.”

She says the exhibit doesn’t necessarily aim to educate visitors on what happened to her people, but it might get people talking and asking questions about local history.

Exhibit visitors can expect (mainly local) artifacts such as arrow heads, pottery, basketry, musket shot and a spear throw, videos, and special children’s programs.

“Early on we decided that we wanted a chance for children to learn by doing activities,” says Osmond. “I developed a range of activities to fit within the school curriculum guidelines, and explore aspects of archaeology. Activities range from ‘mini digs,’ games, mapping exercises, building replicas, and storytelling. These programs will encourage kids to think, but will also allow them to be creative and have fun. Some of the activities can be done with parents and children working together.”

For more information, drop into the Heritage Centre, call 727-3006, or visit www.redlakemuseum.com. The project runs from June 4 – September 30.

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