Science North and Indigenous Tourism Ontario celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday with a virtual premiere of its latest exhibition, titled Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions.
The one-hour program streamed via social media included a virtual tour of the exhibition, appearances by Indigenous performers, vignettes showcasing Indigenous science and innovation, and special guest speakers.
The traveling exhibition was described as a “milestone” in the presentation of Indigenous culture in Canada wherein ancestral values and knowledge are examined through the lens of science and innovation.
Science North hopes to welcome visitors to experience Indigenous Ingenuity once the province moves into stage three of its reopening plan sometime mid-summer.
“Although our doors remain closed at this time, we are thrilled to be able to deliver this unique event virtually, which has been made possible thanks to the invaluable support of the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, the Professional Engineers of Ontario, and Vale,” said Science North CEO Guy Labine.
“We look forward to welcoming our visitors back who will soon be able to experience Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions in person, and the accompanying activities, workshops and events that we have planned.”
The exhibition, which debuted in 2017, was originally developed and produced by the Montreal Science Centre in consultation with more than 100 Indigenous contributors from across Canada over a span of three years.
It presents a novel mix of science and culture intended to stir a sense of pride among First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities.
“What we want to do is share our story on our own terms as Indigenous peoples and help build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people using science to start a dialogue,” said Kevin Eshkawkogan, president and CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario.
Eshkawkogan also sits on Science North’s Northeast Indigenous Advisory Committee.
“Science North is a big supporter of Indigenous perspectives, and I think they are on the forefront of inclusiveness when it comes to the work that they do. The end goal is to share the message that Indigenous people were innovative people – and we still are.”
Visitors will get the opportunity to explore and interact with Indigenous inventions through collaborative games, real objects, virtual reality, and interactive murals.
These include building an igloo from foam blocks, erecting a tipi, or using a bow and arrow to target different animals on a virtual screen. These activities combine the use of tools and skills with traditional knowledge like hunting practices that are still used today.
The exhibition will also feature daily workshops on a rotating schedule. Visitors can learn Huron-Wendat pottery making, traditional braiding and weaving techniques, and snowshoe-making.
Everyone who attends Indigenous Ingenuity will be given an interactive radiofrequency identification (RFID) bracelet as they set out on a quest to collect 26 innovations spread across the exhibition’s 62 challenges.
The bracelets trigger mechanical, multimedia and hybrid interactive features.
“The RFID bracelets add another level of interaction to the exhibition by tracking personal engagement,” said Science North’s science director Julie Moskalyk.
“You are given a bracelet, and it can either be in French or English because the exhibition is bilingual, and as you go on your journey it tracks your interaction. This could mean your depth of learning, which elements of the exhibition you’ve seen, and how your skills have progressed.”
At the end of the journey, the bracelet is fully sanitized and reused for the next visitor.
An accompanying photography exhibit titled Regalia: Native Pride will also be displayed at Science North.
The exhibit pays homage to tradition and modernity by featuring photos and testimonials of traditional Indigenous powwow dancers dressed in their beautiful and intricate traditional regalia from eastern Canada.
Montreal photographer Roland Lorente and his partner Aline Saffore attended more than 20 powwows and traveled nearly 10,000 kilometres to photograph dancers and document their stories.
Indigenous Ingenuity will be showcased in Sudbury until the end of October, but the journey won’t stop there.
Science North hopes to bring the exhibition to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery this winter and, later, a smaller-scale version of the exhibit to up to 20 communities in Northern Ontario.
“This is the largest element of Indigenous content that we have ever had at Science North in our 37 years of operation,” Labine said. “The intent is to take the best of the exhibit from the Montreal Science Centre, purchase that, and bring it to as many communities as we can and connect it with the Indigenous tourism industry.
“It’s an important industry, and our goal is to learn from Indigenous Tourism Ontario and benefit First Nations communities and businesses involved in tourism.”
At the end of the day, he added, the goal is to have a “legacy piece” remain at Science North and for ITO to develop new tourism experiences across Northern Ontario directly related and tied to the traveling exhibit.
“Part of our strategic plan is to deepen our engagement permanently with First Nation communities and Indigenous people,” he said.
“When we think about the horrific events that have occurred in Kamloops and Manitoba, it’s even more important to be better as an organization and to be a true partner to Indigenous people.”
For more information about the Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions exhibition or Science North’s reopening visit www.sciencenorth.ca.