Dibaajimowin – Stories from this Land: History, Land, and Decolonial Curatorial Approaches in a Contemporary Museum
Tuesday, April 4th: 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Aynur Kadir@ University of Waterloo
Dr. Susan Neylan@ Wilfrid Laurier University
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum collaborated with the local Indigenous community in the area and researchers from the Universities of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier on Dibaajimowin: Stories from this Land. The impetus behind this exhibit began with the removal of a series of murals, The History of Waterloo County, from public display. These 1950 paintings depicted an industrial and capitalist interpretation of local history and emphasized the settler experience over that of Indigenous inhabitants. Public artwork hence provided the opportunity to create a museum exhibit that might reframe the region’s history and better engage with Indigenous perspectives and historical representations. The research team started with the question, “What would you include in a retelling of the region\’s history?” Through the case study of Dibaajimowin, this paper will unpack the decolonial practice of collaboration, protocols of Indigenous curatorial practice, usage of digital technology and how centering concepts of land and urban Indigeneity transformed the museum’s approach to a history-themed exhibitions.
Our sense of history in this project was not determined through a linear practice of what happens in what year, but rather in how relationships with the land have been transformed and how contemporary urban Indigeneity has been reshaped by this history. With pandemic restrictions in place, the interviews, team coordination, and research process were all facilitated in digital spaces. This enabled us to integrate the nuances of technology into the physical exhibition to highlight the stories and significance of land, relations, ceremonies, and activism. Core concepts like land-based pedagogy (Simpson, 2014) and history as continued practice of Indigenous resistance (Estes, 2019) informed our strategies for the digital recreation of the Grand River, the ceremonial fire, the Kitchen Table, the reinterpretation of the murals, and life-si