Recently, our class went for a tour of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. I have only been there only a couple times before as I am not originally from Regina, so I don’t have as much information about it as some of my peers did. Something that I gathered from my fellow students, who have been going there since their childhood, is that it has not changed one bit. We went through the First Nations display, and I found it to be very dry.
There was also a huge part missing in this gallery. That part being history or even recognition about Residential schools not only in Canada, but it was left out entirely in our Saskatchewan history. This really surprised me, as Saskatchewan was the grounds for some of the longest standing residential schools in Canada. Something else that really stood out to me is the fact that the language that was used in this exhibition was completely outdated. For example, the term that was used to address this culture was “Indian”. There was no other language used, and there was also a very westernized perspective forced. There was a display that was all about the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company that insinuated that European’s came over and really helped and “saved” the First Nations. There was also nothing about the problematic ways that the European’s took over the land. The First Nations people’s were portrayed to have ideal living conditions, with none of their struggles they faced shown in any of the displays. There was also nothing shown about the conflict between the European settlers and the First Nations people that happened and is consequently still happening today.
Although I doubt that the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is intending to portray the history this way, it is very problematic. If these are the types of displays and exhibitions our students and children are viewing, then there should be no surprise that Canadians (such as myself) know absolutely nothing about the real history that happened. There needs to be the truth displayed and taught to children and adults so that the awareness is turned into knowledge regardless of if it is difficult to discuss. There also needs to be this discussion started very early on because then students and children are aware of these issues and are not 20 (like myself) when they first hear about residential schools. Honestly, learning about the residential schools and the treatment of First Nations peoples is very disturbing, especially as an older student because it is shocking that there is hardly any awareness about it. It did shake my foundations when I became aware of this, because how was I a knowledge university student learning how to shape the minds of young children, when I didn’t even know about one of Canada’s most important historical events? It is so challenging to reflect on this and find solid ground on this because my entire life I had been told (silently, throughout no awareness) one thing, and then finding something out so disturbing made me feel very uneducated and confused.
The visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum was a great learning experience for me as a teacher, because it showed me why students have such limited knowledge about First Nations people. As I said in my previous post, it was unbelievable that so many Canadians were obnoxious to the history of the First Nations people, but these types of portrayals in our museums and how our Canadian history is taught could explain why. It also showed me what perspectives I need to be including in my classrooms because it is likely that they are only being told or shown one perspective.