To celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day, the Melfort and District Museum held the Grand Opening for their new Indigenous Peoples and Archaeology Building on June 21.
The event served as both a grand opening and a celebration of the day. Originally, the event was scheduled for the Museum grounds but was moved to the Melfort Exhibition Grounds Four Seasons Arena because of inclement weather.
“We did have to move over to the Four Seasons Arena for the main program, but there was a clear path over to the Indigenous People’s Archeology Building and then they could tour all of the buildings in the museum as well,” Museum Curator Gailmarie Anderson said.
Anderson said that the event was wonderful despite having to make the change.
“It was particularly important to recognize all of the people that have worked so hard over the last six years or so. We had representatives from around the province from various organizations. We worked quite a bit with the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society so we were happy that some of them were here.”
During the day, there was an official grand opening program, with Flintknapping demonstrations by Gabe LaMarche.
“That was very, very popular to watch Gabe do the Flintnapping, so it was pretty good,” Anderson said,
There was also beading demonstrations by Felicity Stonestand, and a crafting table from the Marguerite Riel Centre.
“It was great,” Anderson said. “We had a really good time. We had lots of school children. We had lots of refreshments. Our local bakery (Golden Grain Bakery) made pans and pans of bannock that all was really appreciated so we had a really good time.”
Anderson said the project was an important one because it allowed the area to recognize its Indigenous history.
“We have been building good relationships with our Indigenous neighbours and our Metis neighbours and that’s really important going forward,” Anderson explained. “We also really appreciated all of the families that had representatives here. Some of them had to fly in from other parts of Canada and the States. It was wonderful to hear the stories because they told people what their dad or grandfather how they collected all of these items.”
The building has around 10,000 pieces from their three major donors—the Hrytzak Morgan family, Tom Smith, and the Archie Campbell family.
Adding the mural on the side of the building was an important part of the project. Museum cultural advisor Edward Stonestand from James Smith painted the mural. He was in attendance to talk about it, along with his family of dancers and the Digging Bear Drumming Circle.
“That was pretty important,” Anderson said. “It was kind of the icing on the cake.”
She added that the building is already becoming a big draw.
“Everything is catalogued and organized and numbered and detailed and described and all of the sight maps are out there, so it’s just wonderful for researchers and for archeologists,” she said. “We have had a couple of archeology groups come up for tours already, so I think it is pretty important bringing people to Melfort for this collection.”
Anderson said that the Museum appreciates being able to open the building to the public.
“It means a lot to us to continue to honour the relationships between all of the nations,” she said.