McCord Museum exhibition aims to make amends for colonial past

The McCord Museum is named after the founder who acquired many of its objects a hundred years ago.

Many of the objects in David Ross McCord's collection belonged to Indigenous communities, obtained as a result of the Indian Act and brought into law when the government dictated interactions with Indigenous peoples.

But in acknowledgement of a colonial past, the collection is now accompanied by a decade of testimonies from members of 11 First Nations.

"We have this communal collective traditional Indigenous knowledge that is now used to better document and better understand our collection," says Jonathan Lainey, the museum's curator of Indigenous Cultures.

The museum aims to make amends by giving voice to communities who were silenced.

"Their traditions, their cultural practices were prohibited by legislation. They were targets of colonial policies and the result is dispossession," said Lainey.

"They were systematically dispossessed of everything: their identity, their name, their language, their territory, their spirituality, their material culture--"

-- and their children. The last residential school closed in Canada in 1996.

Years later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission confirmed what many Indigenous people already knew: thousands of children never returned from those institutions.

Ground-penetrating radar investigations are still underway at residential school sites, where hundreds of unmarked graves have been uncovered.

"This is not really ancient history, this is recent history," said Lainey.

The three sections of the permanent collection are called Knowledge, Trauma and Resilience.

"I think this exhibition will bring empathy and awareness."


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