This past reading week, instructor Laura Phillips and students from the Faculty of Information’s workshop on Museums, Archives, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission visited the Six Nations of the Grand River. The visit was an opportunity to “see, hear, and feel sovereignty, knowledge, language as they continue to exist today,” said Phillips.
A recent PhD graduate herself, Phillips focused her INF1005/6 workshop “on actionable ways that students can make a difference in zones of their control” as emerging professionals in their fields. For example, she wrote, “our course assignments centre real life, practical tasks and conversations – learning from each other, working through uncomfortable discussions, and sharing our stories with each other helps us to build community and relationships.”
One of the workshop’s assignments was to support the work of the Woodland Cultural Centre, based in Brantford. It is planning a 2024 exhibition on the activism of Deskaheh, also known as Levi General, and the pursuit of sovereignty during the 1920s. Part of the research is archival, so the students undertook detailed item level cataloguing of selections from the archive of George P. Decker (1861-1936), a lawyer for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Heather George, guest curator at Woodland Cultural Centre and lead of the exhibit project, spoke to the workshop class about the importance of archival work to the sovereignty of the Six Nations of the Grand River. She also gave an overview of the grounds of the Mush Hole, known as the Mohawk institute Residential School, which her uncle attended, and shared his experiences as a survivor.
After a delicious lunch, including moose meat prepared by the local caterers Dooots, at the Gathering Place by the Grand, students heard a talk by Kahentakeron Deer (Kerdo) Ioklats, the ecological team lead at Kayanase. They also participated in two hands on activities: making seed balls with compost, seeds and clay, and turning invasive Phragmites grasses into pollinator hibernation tubes by carefully removing the seeded tassels, and then clipping the bamboo like shaft into foot long lengths that were bunded together with garden twine.
“Students loved having an opportunity to critically assess barriers and achievements made in colonial archives and museums, and to have networking opportunities with people working in the field,” Phillips wrote in a report. “They appreciated having a task like the archiving activity, where they felt their class work was contributing to the expressed need shared by Woodland Cultural Centre.” She said she was thrilled at how all aspects of the workshop came together and the positive feedback from students.
This article was drawn from a longer write-up prepared by Laura Phillips about the workshop, which can be read in full here.
To arrange a field trip please contact the Six Nations of the Grand River tourism office.