Grand Opening Ceremony Planned For Jasper Indigenous Exhibit

The focal point at the center of the Jasper Indigenous Exhibit — a collaborative Indigenous art installation — features a large bronze sculpture of an eagle resting on a sphere with words from six Indigenous language. There is also a representation of original beaded artwork/Parks Canada

The Jasper Indigenous Exhibit has set a grand opening date for Sept. 7 and 8.

It presents and commemorates Indigenous histories connected to the area now known as Jasper National Park. Located in Athabasca Park next to the Visitor Information Centre, the exhibit is an example of Indigenous partners coming together with Parks Canada to work towards reconciliation.

Indigenous communities connected to this place have been working with Parks Canada to create an immersive, artistic and truth-telling space in Jasper National Park since the early 2000s.

Central to the stories being told is the forced removal of Indigenous people and the impact this history has on Indigenous communities to this day. The Indigenous Exhibit Working Group — comprised of representatives from Indigenous communities connected to Jasper — led the exhibit design, artwork selection, drafting of text and planning for the opening ceremony.

As the final elements of the exhibit are completed, and when the site is safe for pedestrian use, Parks Canada will remove the perimeter fence. The opening ceremony will commemorate the meaningful relationships and elements built through the completion of the exhibit.

“The mountains are sacred and we’ve known that for a very long time,” working group member Eugene Alexis, director of Heritage and Language for the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, said in a news release.

“We come here to the mountains because we know there is good energy here and we do some of our ceremonies and harvesting over here in the mountains. The exhibit is going to say we’ve been here since time immemorial. We have our own stories, and we want to share them.”

The Jasper Indigenous Exhibit will open in Jasper National Park in Alberta.

The Jasper Indigenous Exhibit will open in Jasper National Park in Alberta/Parks Canada

Every aspect of this exhibit has been conceptualized and designed in close collaboration with Indigenous partners. These collaborations took place over more than 40 meetings, where partners decided on the design of the landscaping, walkways, furniture, lighting, collection of Indigenous artwork and the commissioning for a bronze eagle sculpture.

Working Group members included the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Bighorn Chiniki Stoney Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Lac Ste. Anne Métis Community Association, Métis Nation of British Columbia, Mountain Cree and Simpcw First Nation.

At each of the four entrances, panels will introduce people to the exhibit and recognize the displacement of Indigenous peoples from the land that became Jasper. Along pathways, people will find storytelling and art panels created and written by Indigenous partners that highlight the unique and diverse cultures of partner communities.

“I want a non-Indigenous world to finally see my world, to come and recognize that my people have been here since time immemorial and all the changes we’ve had in history have affected us,” said working group member Carol Wildcat, Industrial Relations Consultation Director for the Ermineskin Cree Nation.

“We’ve been brushed aside, we’ve been forgotten, it was OK to harm us. It is still OK to harm us. But I want people to start seeing my history, my viewpoint, and to start understanding the mountains, this land, and the water as being something other than a resource to be exploited or manipulated because these are life-giving forces. I think people need to start recognizing life, well-being, and you get those by being in the mountains, in the water. This project was really important because finally we are creating a space for us again here in our homelands and we want to share properly with the world how we view the Indigenous world. We are still alive. We are not dead. Our connections are still here. I really want people to come and view Jasper in a different way.”

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