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Yaqan nuʔkiy, Nelson Museum sign memorandum of understanding

Agreement acknowledges the museum’s commitment to working more closely with Ktunaxa
On Nov. 9, 2023, Heather Suttie, CAO of Lower Kootenay Band (yaqan nuʔkiy community), Codie Morigeau, CAO of Ktunaxa Nation Council, and Nasuʔkin Jason Louie signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nelson Museum, Archives and Gallery, represented by Astrid Heyerdahl, outgoing executive director, Lesley Garlow, decolonization and social justice lead, and Sheila Achilles, board chair. Photo courtesy Ktunaxa Nation Council

A memorandum of understanding was signed between yaqan nuʔkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) and the Nelson Museum, Archives and Gallery during a ceremony at the yaqan nuʔkiy community meeting room on Nov. 9.

The MOU, in the works for several years, formally acknowledges the museum’s commitment to working with Ktunaxa more closely as it aligns its practices towards decolonization.

“A lot of hard work and collaboration was put into this. This is what I believe true reconciliation is about,” said Nasuʔkin Jason Louie in a statement.

The MOU has been a guiding draft document for the museum for a number of years, and both parties had a hand in developing it before signing.

“Museums have a history of telling peoples’ stories for them, and they’re often telling them incorrectly,” said Astrid Heyerdahl, outgoing executive director of the museum, in a statement. “We want to move away from that kind of work and to move forward in an honest authentic way, which is in true partnership.”

Heyerdahl said work at Nelson Museum is informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the First Nations Principles of OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access and Possession), and the B.C. Museums Association Repatriation Call to Action.

But relationships with First Nations is the foundation, which Nasuʔkin Louie noted.

“A lot of organizations try and tell us what they think truth about reconciliation is,” he said. “But this has been sincere, and very meaningful. So I want to thank you for these efforts so far, and thank you for coming to our community.”

By 2025, the fruits of the MOU will be exemplified by a new, permanent exhibition featuring Ktunaxa stories and displays in the upstairs museum space.

“This document will guide more than just exhibits, though,” said Heyerdahl. “It will guide us in ensuring that the information that is presented to the public about the Ktunaxa is created with the yaqan nukiy people to ensure that it is exactly a hundred per cent the way that that it should be.”

Heyerdahl said the agreement will be reflected throughout all of Nelson Museum.

“It’s in the archives, it’s the collections we have, it’s the exhibitions, the publications we do — it guides everything and that’s very exciting.”

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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