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From snowshoes to maple syrup, new Science North exhibit is on Indigenous ingenuity

Science centre still closed due to COVID-19, but exhibit runs until Oct. 31 once it reopens

Science North gave people a sneak peek of its new exhibit, Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions, on June 21, which is National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

While Science North is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, once the science centre is open again, the exhibit will run until Oct. 31. (Science centres will be allowed to reopen in “Step 3” of the province’s reopening plan - see more details here).

The exhibit was first developed by the Montreal Science Centre in collaboration with over 100 contributors, including “deep, pan-national consultation with Indigenous peoples and communities.”

In a media launch and virtual tour of the exhibit, host Waubgeshig Rice tried out some of the new exhibits and gave a peek into not only the design behind the exhibits, but examples of modern technology meeting traditional Indigenous wisdom. 

Watch the video below:

That is the heart of the exhibit itself. Showing the traditional hunting methods and ideas from the Indigenous people of northern Ontario, but also how that early knowledge can shape understanding of the modern world and even ways to manage the effects of climate change. 

When visitors first arrive at the exhibit, they are given a wristband that will “unlock” the interactive exhibit, and like host Rice, will get to try their hand at traditional spear fishing, bow hunting with several types of bows and even try walking in Agam (snowshoes). There are those shaped in a swallowtail the way they are now, and those once used, like those called “beavertail” snowshoes. There will also be a chance for visitors to identify Naagzakwe’aa (animal tracks.) 

The event featured many dignitaries and public figures offering their congratulations to Science North, especially with the challenges the sector has faced since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Lisa MacLeod, MPP and Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture said that the exhibit at Science North was made possible by a $150,000 grant from the cultural attractions fund. 

“We are the world in one province, and today I want to extend my best wishes and warmest greetings to the launch of the Indigenous Ingenuity Exhibition,” she said. “I'm proud that Science North is able to showcase an unprecedented amount of work that highlights first people's ancestral values and knowledge alongside modern science.”

Chief operating officer Dino Ontranto announced Vale as presenting sponsor of the exhibit and the Vale Cavern Film Series. 

Featuring films from Indigenous creators, those present for the virtual tour got a chance to view a portion of the film “A Walk in the Forest,” (Une marche dans la forêt) 

Several of Science North’s well-known “bluecoats” were present, offering a history of Ziiwagmideke (syrup), including boiling sap with hot rocks, discussing the exhibits, and even showing off a Mikinaak (snapping turtle) to announce they would be permanently adding Anishinaabemowin names to all exhibit descriptions. 

The exhibit also allows visitors to view the work taking place in first nations, including the sustainable fishing program run by the Whitefish River First Nation. 

Using traditional methods mixed with modern technology, the community is able to stock the river with walleye eggs so that they can maintain the health of the water body. There were also conversations with Indigenous leaders regarding their tourism programs, including the Great Lakes Cultural Centre, a company that offers mobile outdoor cultural experiences.

A short film featuring the first Indigenous person to hold a patent gave the audience a chance to meet Olivia Pope, an Ojibwe woman, who ,in 1954, after years of redevelopment and invention, created what is now known as a “jolly jumper.” 

She based the invention on a Tikinagan, a cradle board, used by Indigenous women for centuries.   

During the presentation, both in the middle and as a closing, viewers were treated to a performance from the Mino Bamaadzwin Dance Troupe, featuring Teresa McGregor, Lexi McGregor, Darren McGregor and Braedon Manitowabi Peltier, with drumming and dancing in full regalia to offer viewers a chance to see a small version of a pow wow. 

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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