It’s been a busy month at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives! This week, we opened our latest exhibition, Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley. To bring you this exhibition, the Museum partnered with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre in collaboration with the Sq’éwlets First Nation.
What it’s all about
The ancient home of the Sq’éwlets First Nation is at the junction of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. The history of the Sq’éwlets people from their ancient origins, up to the present day, is shared in the exhibition through videos, cultural belongings, and photos.
A notable aspect of the presentation is that the content wasn’t written or generated by the Museum staff—it was created by the community at Sq’éwlets, from their perspective, and in their words. Self-representation and personal voice are key aspects of the exhibition programme. Visitors will find that the Halq’eméylem language is used prominently throughout the display.
A note on terminology
In the exhibition texts, you will notice a small but significant change in terminology. Rather than the commonly used term “artifact” or “object,” the material culture on display is referred to as “belongings.” Alongside the belongings, you will also see historical and contemporary photographs of belongings being used.
The reasoning behind this is multi-faceted, but one of our goals is to emphasize that these items and technologies are still utilized and practiced today, as they have been for generations. Perhaps most important is to acknowledge that the material culture on display belongs to the Sq’éwlets community and their ancestors.
For an in-depth discussion on museological use of the term “belonging” in regards to Coast Salish material culture, check out the following article, Belongings” in “c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city.
A community welcome
The exhibition opened on November 2nd, and despite Chilliwack’s first snowfall of the season, many visitors were present. To start the event, a welcome was provided Chief Robert Combes of the local Skwah First Nation. Chief Andy Phillips of the Sq’éwlets First Nation then introduced the project, followed by traditional song and dance led by Johnny Williams on drum. City Councillor Sue Attrill then spoke a few words, along with Museum Director Matthew Francis.
To all of the folks who braved the weather and difficult roads to celebrate this new exhibition, we thank you!
(This exhibition also marks the first time we’ve installed a display using the Museum’s new display cases, and they are a dream to work with!)
Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō–Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley is on display from November 2, 2017 to April 28, 2018. Read further about the exhibition here.