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Nitsitapiisinni: Through Blackfoot Eyes

Relations between Canada's museums and its First Nations have been fraught with challenges, but have come a long way in the last few years. It was not until the early 1990s that the Glenbow adopted a policy to "involve First Nations in the collecting, planning, research, implementation, presentation, and maintenance of:all exhibits, programs, and projects that include First Nations culture."

The $2-million Nitsitapiisinni exhibit is the result of a four-year planning process. Museum staff worked with the Blackfoot project team of 17 senior leaders and teachers from regional communities of the Kainai, Siksika, and Peigan (including the Apatohsipikani in southern Alberta and the Amsskaapipikani in Montana). Team member Jerry Potts Jr. ;o: (Apatohsipikani) says the museum was -among the first in Canada to involve : Aboriginal staff and begin consultations with local Aboriginal leaders to repatriate : sacred objects to their traditional owners. As a result, artifacts on view are .thoughtfully integrated with replicas and oral descriptions.

At the gallery opening, many of the speakers addressed the audience in their own language and English. Donna Weaselchild (Siksika), pointed out that "kids are being taught our language in our schools-and it is our own people who are teaching them." Blackfoot culture is traditionally passed on through a rich oral tradition of storytelling. In this new exhibit, all didactic panels are presented from the point of view of the Blackfoot themselves; audio stations and videotapes let you listen to ancient stories and personal experiences recounted in both Blackfoot and English.

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Reprinted with the permission of Sandra Vida and Legacy (Summer 2002): 12, 14.

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