Seeking Indigenous Stories

Jonathan Lainey

The Canadian Museum of History has just launched a website to ask the public to share stories about members of Indigenous communities who have travelled abroad over the centuries. Whether they are personal experiences, historical accounts or oral histories, the stories will form the basis of Indigenous Stories Beyond Borders (working title), an exhibition that is currently under development and scheduled to open in 2021.

By turning the spotlight on individuals and groups that have travelled the world as diplomats, warriors/soldiers, performers, artists, athletes and/or scholars, the exhibition will highlight stories about how Indigenous peoples have asserted, and continue to assert, their sovereignty and identities beyond Canada’s borders.

We could tell these stories ourselves, but that is not our goal. We believe the success of this exhibition lays in reaching out and collaborating with those who know the stories best.

What we are looking for

Without neglecting them, we want to go beyond the tragic stories of the people who were held captive as “New World curiosities” to be exhibited to Europeans.  A goal of the exhibition is to emphasize the initiative, leadership, creativity and agency of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

One theme will highlight the many individuals that went overseas in an effort to assert their rights. Among them were the leaders erroneously known as the “Four Indian Kings” who met Queen Anne in 1710 and, 115 years later, the Wendat chiefs who appeared before King George IV in 1825. The portraits of these eight leaders have helped immortalize those events.  Let us also remember the thousands of Indigenous soldiers who served in both World Wars, and Levi General Deskaheh, the Cayuga diplomat who went to the headquarters of the League of Nations, in Geneva, in 1923.

These are just a few examples. We are certain that there are many more fascinating stories out there. Has a contemporary female artist created a work in a public space in Asia that shocked people when they saw it? Has an Indigenous athlete received international recognition? Have Indigenous people from Canada collaborated with First Peoples in Africa or New Zealand, or are they doing so today? It’s up to you to share these stories.

Like all museum exhibitions, this one will also include objects that illustrate the stories being told, to showcase the material culture surrounding the events highlighted or resulting from them.

How to participate

To facilitate the gathering of information, we have created a website: historymuseum.ca/indigenous-stories. We think it will be easier and faster for people to submit their stories using this online tool, from anywhere.

Of course, no matter how relevant or touching the story, not all can be included in the exhibition. With the help of an external advisory committee, the Museum’s curatorial team will carefully select stories that will make up the exhibition’s narrative. To develop the content, the curators will work closely with the individuals and communities that have shown an interest in the project and have a direct link to the stories.

Whether they are personal accounts or oral histories of ancestors (famous or not) who travelled the globe, the curatorial team would be delighted to receive your stories and consider how they could be included in the exhibition. We eagerly look forward to hearing from you.

Do you have a story? Share it here: historymuseum.ca/indigenous-stories.

One response to “Seeking Indigenous Stories”

  1. […] Do you remember that I mentioned the new project from the Canadian Museum of History, “Indigenous Stories Beyond Borders”? Here is some more information about the project, and what curators are looking for specifically. […]