Birchbark canoe detail: Fusionriver Photography

Nearly two decades ago, the fledgling Canadian Canoe Museum set out on a journey to develop 20,000 square feet of exhibits for nine, newly-created galleries within its renovated factory setting.

Among the many remarkable people who were part of that team effort, we were fortunate to include biologist and artist Rick Beaver of Alderville First Nation. Rick was recruited for the project as Indigenous Liaison and, through his considerable network, outreach and travels on the museum’s behalf, cultivated trust and interest with many Indigenous participants who added their voice, presence and their stories to the museum’s exhibit project.

Rick Beaver and Jeremy Ward in conversation for a volunteer information session in 2000.

Rick Beaver and Jeremy Ward in conversation for a volunteer information session in 2000.

Nineteen years (and many temporary exhibits) later, we are planning and fundraising for a new museum at the Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. As part of our work, planning is also now underway for the development of a wonderful new suite of permanent exhibits. I am delighted to say that Rick serves with us on the Exhibit Design Committee that is charged with guiding this project. He is among a group of expert advisors on this committee, chaired by museum board member Dianne Lister.

The project before us will be greater in scope and scale than all past efforts. It will also require us to build and foster a broader network of relationships and trust than ever before. We recognize the incredible opportunities, and responsibilities ahead and embrace them. All canoes and kayaks today, regardless of their construction and use, carry the ancestry of Indigenous invention. And one quarter of the museum’s watercraft collection is of Indigenous creation, with origins found across Canada and around the world.

In support of the exhibit design process for the new museum, an important step taken by the committee has been the development and adoption of the Canadian Canoe Museum’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit Engagement Principles. These will govern and guide our outreach processes. There is clearly much work that lies ahead. To work with our team, the museum is pleased to be recruiting for an Indigenous Relations Liaison to join us in bringing together voices and stories from canoeing cultures across this country.

By Jeremy Ward, Curator