New virtual exhibit honours Aboriginal women through history

By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

Travellers stop with a woman at a teepee in 1914. This photo will be one of the many historic portraits high- lighted in the upcoming Women of Nistawoyou Virtual Exhibit taking place on October 22. The one-of-a-kind his- toric exhibition will honour the Aboriginal women leaders of the Wood Buffalo region. Story continued on Page 5. Photo by Arthur Lambert, Collection of the Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

Travellers stop with a woman at a teepee in 1914. This photo will be one of the many historic portraits highlighted in the upcoming Women of Nistawoyou Virtual Exhibit taking place on October 22. The one-of-a-kind historic exhibition will honour the Aboriginal women leaders of the Wood Buffalo region. Photo by Arthur Lambert, Collection of the Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

A collaborated initiative to honour local Aboriginal women of the past and present will be launching on October 22 at the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre.

The Women of Nistawoyou virtual exhibit puts focus on the women of the traditionally Aboriginal and Métis communities, located alongside the three rivers in the Wood Buffalo region.

“Nistawoyou is the Cree name for Fort McMurray, meaning ‘Where the Three Rivers Meet’,” explains Josephine Eric, Project Manager of the Women of Nistawoyou Project. “This exhibit will explore the Aboriginal women leaders who were historically associated with important fur trade posts in Fort Chipewyan and Fort McKay.”

The celebration will correlate with Women History month. Organizers felt it was the best opportunity to acknowledge the strong heritage found within the region. The event will showcase the exhibition of portraits, archival documents, drawings, artifacts, and past events that have taken place in the region.

“We have identified six prominent women through archival work, but we hope that more women can be included in the exhibit through community submissions,” said Eric. “They will learn more about these incredible women and be inspired by what they have accomplished compared to what they had as resources during their times.”

The virtual exhibit is a partnership between the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre, the Fort McMurray Heritage Society and Centre d’accueil et d’établissement, which was made possible through the Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC).

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Nancy Woodward preparing jam at Meensa Products Cooperative plant in Anzac in 1965.

The VMC is managed by the Canadian Museum of History from the financial support of the Canadian government. It’s the largest digital source shared by Canada’s museums and heritage organizations.

As the project is a part of VMC’s Community Memories investment program, it allows the organizations the opportunity to work with their communities to develop virtual exhibits that engage an online audience.

“The virtual exhibit will highlight the contributions of Aboriginal women in politics, health, and the economy as business owners, trappers, and mentors,” said Eric. “Through understanding their experiences, and achievements, we can demonstrate their valiant and resilient nature. These women, from a strong and Matriarchal Culture, used their talents and ingenuity, and took part in building vibrant and prosperous communities in the Wood Buffalo region.”

The exhibit will be available online for one year after the project launch on the Virtual Museum of Canada website at www.virtualmuseum.ca.

“It is our greatest desire that the community will participate in the creation of this exhibit and be part in providing a piece of our history for the whole world to see,” said Teresa Nahwegahbow, Executive Director of the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre.

Gertie Sanderson with her sisters in the 1940s in Fort McMurray. Pho- tos provided by the Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

Gertie Sanderson with her sisters in the 1940s in Fort McMurray. Photos provided by the Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

“Wood Buffalo is a region with significant diversity, which has had to struggle to retain its’ heritage. As the Oil Sands developments started, the women started working full time outside the home and trap line. These women are important role models that youth of today can emulate as well as the whole community as we rebuild our communities after the fire. These pioneer women have shown us how to be resilient, how to be strong in time of rapid change and unforeseen challenges in the region,” Nahwegahbow shared.

The event will be held at the Nistawoyou Friendship Association Centre from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 8310 Manning Avenue.

– Connect Weekly –