Organizers of the future Wabasca museum and community archive said things are coming along for the new institution.
Travis Gladue of the Bigstone Empowerment Society, which is organizing the opening of the museum, said that they hope to see the museum fully open in the summer time.
“The renovations to the building are complete,” said Gladue. “We have also met with the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton regarding some discussions of some Wabasca artifacts that are currently displayed there. We hope to see them repatriated when we have the new facility. We are also discussing the safety requirements of the artifacts for when we do get them home.”
About 10 artifacts are being looked at to bring home, including an axe head, napkin ring, beaded moccasins, a beaded belt as well as three decorated drums.
“We even found a moss bag from the Big Stone Cree Nation, which was created by one of our members,” said Gladue. “These are just some of the items we would like to bring home and keep within our community.”
Gladue added that getting the artifacts won’t automatically mean ownership.
“We are getting them under a long-term loan,” he said. “This means that we get them for an unlimited amount of time before we are able to assume ownership of the items.”
He added that there are also a lot of items located in other museums right across the province.
“We do hope to get to them eventually,” said Gladue. “But for now, we are just concentrating on the items in Edmonton, as we can currently house about 5-7 artifacts, plus of course cases and the lighting involved.”
In the case of northern artifacts, legislation is still going through the process in regards to the steps needed to be taken in terms of repatriation.
“Let me put it this way,” Gladue said. “There is still lots of uncharted territory being explored.”
Elder Mike Beaver, the president of the museum society, added that a grand opening has been tentatively scheduled for May 25.
“We are planning on having a barbecue to commemorate the occasion,” Beaver said. “The building renovations cost about $100,000 to do, but it is well worth it. The building looks absolutely beautiful now.”
The society first began its efforts to get a museum built back in 2007, but it was a decade before they could even find it a home. And then, in February, they were given approval to use the old Bigstone Cree Nation band office in Wabasca as their eventual location.
In a letter of support for the society, Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen said that everyone is enriched when local history is preserved and shared.
“An interpretive centre is an excellent way to bring that local history to life,” Viersen said in the letter. “The museum will expand awareness and help deepen the community’s appreciation and understanding of the region’s history.”