institution: The Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre / Stó:lō Nation.
category: Exhibition and Collection Extension
Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley is an online exhibit that is the product of a major interdisciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration. It is the work of community leaders, anthropologists, historians, media specialists, and other content experts. It was developed with the support of the Virtual Exhibits Investment Program, Virtual Museum of Canada. The Virtual Museum of Canada is managed by the Canadian Museum of History, with the financial support of the Government of Canada. It was collaboratively produced and designed with the Sq’éwlets First Nation as an expression of Sq’éwlets identity today, and its design principles reflect decades of community based archaeological work on Sq’éwlets territory. It uses Halq̓eméylem language concepts stámés (about), sxwōxwiyám (our origin stories) and our sqwélqwel (our oral histories) as organizing principles for the sharing of content in exhibit.
The list of participants in the project was extensive. Please see the full list here.
It stems from a collaborative relationship formed 25 years ago between Chief Clarence Pennier of Sq’éwlets and archaeologists from the University of British Columbia and Stó:lō Nation. A partnership was formed in 1992 to excavate, examine, understand, and protect the ancestral archaeological resources at one of the Sq’éwlets community’s primary ancestral sites, Qithyil. Based on several decades of community-based archaeology, oral history, and ethnohistorical work, and the recent production of short video documentaries, the website presents a long-term perspective of what it means to be a Sq’éwlets person and community member today. The project used the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN)(see Rowley, 2010) to curate and exhibit a selection of Sq’éwlets belongings and to provide opportunities for deeper research within the collections hosted on the RRN.
It also resulted in a series of physical exhibitions at the Chilliwack Museum & Archives, the Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford, and the Bill Reid Centre at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby. For more discussion of the website and the physical exhibitions that emerged from the online exhibit, please see our 2018 Museums and the Web Paper.
The archaeology of Sq’éwlets is framed within a rich ancestral tradition and deep knowledge of the cultural landscape. This project tells our origin stories, speaks to our Transformation sites and how our lands and waterways have Halq’eméylem place names, how our ancestors traveled throughout the region making their living from the bounty of the rivers, lakes and land, and how our ancestors were buried in marked cemeteries that are revered and cared for today. To help tell these stories, this includes an interactive timeline and maps, including Halq’eméylem place names associated with specific locations on the cultural landscape. We also present new perspectives on the repatriation of our ancestral remains taken from our cemeteries and until recently held in local museums, including some of our partner institutions. Now, with the guidance of Sq’éwlets and Stó:lō elders they are making their journey home.
We further developed significant Teachers’ Resources for use in elementary and high school curriculum in British Columbia, and we view this contribution as especially significant, as this curriculum was developed BY Sq’éwlets and Stó:lō people about Sq’éwlets and Stó:lō people, history, language, and culture in the past and today.
We also included an introduction to the Halq̓eméylem language and resources that this website provides, including a glossary of all terms used in the site and a pronunciation guide. We pilot the use of innovative Traditional Knowledge Labels that teach about ethical circulation of Sq’éwlets knowledge, and which reflect the different kinds of knowledge included in the exhibit, including culturally sensitive knowledge and oral histories with family ownership protocols.
This knowledge and heritage represents a significant body of biographical and historical information about our Sq’éwlets-Stó:lō community, yet commonly goes unrecognized in our neighbouring non-Native communities—even though there is often great interest in such information. We hope our project will raise public awareness of these important places and issues— with the aim of contributing to intercommunity communication and ongoing work towards reconciliation in British Columbia and beyond.
This project was awarded the prize for Best Interactive Media at the 2017 Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival in Washington, D.C. For a review of the project, please see Dara Kelly’s essay in BC Studies (2017)