Otipemisiwak: The People Who Own Themselves
About The Event
The Art Gallery of Golden (AGOG) is proud to present Otipemisiwak – The People Who Own Themselves, an exhibit featuring cultural items crafted by members of Métis Nation Columbia River along with 42 portraits by Claire Dibble. We invite you to explore the info below to find out more about this very special exhibit. The exhibit runs from June 25 through September 4, 2021.
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge the traditional stewards of the lands where these images were made and are currently exhibited. This exhibition is being held on the unceded traditional lands of the Ktunaxa and the Secwepemc peoples, which is also home to Métis Nation Columbia River Society and its members.
The Métis are Indigenous peoples in Canada and parts of the US who are unique in being of mixed Indigenous and European (primarily French) ancestry, with roots out of the Red River homeland. In Canada, they are considered a distinct culture, and are one of three groups of Canadian Indigenous peoples referenced in the Constitution.
By their nature, Métis are of mixed heritage, and sometimes difficult to identify in a group. Their identities are often questioned because they may not have the visual markers of other Indigenous groups. Historically, this was seen as an advantage, helping to avoid prejudice, reducing the risk of having children taken away to residential schools, and being able to legally gather in groups of more than two people (which was illegal for Indigenous people in Canada for a considerable period). This project aims to contribute to the amplification of Métis voices and pride in Métis ancestry, as well as demonstrate a sense of community and commonality despite visual differences.
Golden and the surrounding area has served as a home for Métis people of various backgrounds for generations. In some families, the heritage was intentionally hidden in the name of self-preservation and protection. In recent years, with the aid of increased access to ancestry records and also due to shifts in societal perspectives around indigeneity, more people are becoming aware of and embracing their own Métis heritage.
Golden’s local Métis chapter, the Métis Nation Columbia River Society (MNCRS), offers a welcoming community for folks from any Indigenous background and their friends, family, and allies. The MNCRS mission is to share, lift up and support Métis culture in the Columbia Valley, Golden, and Area A, and the organization strives to bridge the gaps in health, wealth, and education between local Indigenous people of All Nations and the non-Indigenous population. The MNCRS office is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10am to 2pm, drop-ins and visitors are welcome whenever public health guidelines allow.
“Otipemisiwak – The People Who Own Themselves” was funded through the financial support of Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiatives Program. The photographs were made by Claire Dibble, a non-Indigenous artist based in Golden. She has completed several grant-funded portrait series in the past, including river guides on the Kicking Horse (2011), 101 travellers on TC1 (2016), and community-nominated heroes in Castlegar (2018) – learn more at www.clairedibble.com. With the awareness that representation of Indigenous people by Indigenous people is essential, the first phase of the project also included a series of photography workshops for members of the Métis Nation. The portraits in the exhibit represent only a small percentage of Métis in Golden.
In addition to the portraits, this exhibition features various cultural items contributed by members of the Métis Nation, including a buffalo hide that members tanned in 2020. Historically, the Métis were totally dependent on the buffalo for food, clothing, tools, shelter, and as a means of making their living by providing pemmican to traders, voyageurs and trading posts. The Métis in Golden have recently been holding workshops in fleshing, scraping, smoking and tanning buffalo hides as a demonstration of this significant piece of their culture.
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Kicking Horse Culture presents about four dozen cultural events and activities throughout the year in Golden, B.C., the traditional unceded territory of the Ktunaxa and Secwépemc Nations which is also home to Métis Nation Columbia River.