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Remember Your Teachings: An Interview with Terry Point, Musqueam Cultural Centre

Posted by Madeline Knicke...
1 November 2013 - 8:05am


 : Remember Your Teachings


Terry Point, a member of the Musqueam First Nation, and a researcher and curator at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Center, spoke at THEN/HiER’s regional conference at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC. His presentation was an important part of the day’s events, and he also led the evening program, Approaching the Past, at the Center, which is located on the Musqueam reserve. I spoke with Terry to hear a little bit more about his perspectives on museum work, approach to curating and interpretation, and current projects.


MK: My first question was about your presentation at the conference, which looked at a number of different examples of museum work projects that you've been involved in. You called it “Museology with a Good Heart and an Open Mind.” For people who weren’t at the conference, how would you explain that concept to them?


TP: The way that it came about was from teachings from within our culture. When we did the work for the Museum of Anthropology, T’xwelátse, Herb Joe, came down to the museum after our work was done with the Coast Salish Gallery, and he reminded me of that teaching. When you go in to do any kind of work, if you go in with a good heart and an open mind, and you do the work, people will see that come through in the work that you do. It just means that when you begin a project, that you go in with a full heart, everything that’s within your being, and put that in to your work, and also have an open mind, no preconceptions, about what the work is going to be, and let the work take form through the visions of yourself and other people. I think that’s what, basically, that means. So when we’re doing work, sometimes we get in that little box and we just focus on the work and what it does and who you’re working for, whether it’s the museum or the band, but what he was saying, is that you need to get out of that box once in a while and just refresh and start from square one, and do the work with that mindset, and the end product, people will see that you did that. I think that’s what he really meant by that, and I think those are some of the teachings that we get as young kids, but sometimes forget.


MK: That brings me to my next question, because you talked about this in your presentation too, and you said something that really stuck with me. You told everyone that they should remember their teachings, that is was important to “remember your teachings.” What does that mean? 


TP: There’s a sign down at the Museum of Anthropology,  “remember your teachings.” I think that’s what I was kind of missing, and that’s when Herb said to do the work with a good heart and open mind. Those are teachings that are instilled within you from when you’re a kid. So it’s all of the teachings that you get with your surrounding space, your environment, who you are as a person. Sometimes I think we tend to forget that, in our day-to-day lives. So I think when you’re going in to visit a space like a museum, you gotta remember where you came from, so that you can understand where other people are coming from. I think that’s what you really need to think about when you’re doing museum work or even just going to visit a museum.


MK: As part of the evening program, you invited some of the conference delegates to come back and have a tour around the Musqueam reserve and learn about Musqueam history. What are some of the things that, when you bring visitors back to your home, you like to emphasize to them about that land, and about your connection to it?


TP: It depends on the group. When youth groups and kids come down, I want them to realize that we’re not that different, but we’re living in a contemporary society now. What’s different about us is that we’ve been here for 4000 years. When I take older groups, I like to point out the differences. Why it’s different. Why the land is different than now, all the human impacts that have affected our community and our culture, and how much the environment has changed over the last hundred years, but then also teasing out that connection to the land that we still have. With your group, you guys had a great opportunity to talk to [elder] Shane [Point], and go into the longhouse, and see that the culture is still being practiced, and is still alive. Those fundamental teachings that we do get, that’s where they stem from, from the longhouse and the environment. When we talk about “remember your teachings,” that’s where we get our teachings. It’s good to be able to tell groups about that in a contemporary way. We’re living a modern life, but there are pieces within the reserve that are still tied to that really distant past.


MK: It was great to be there, and really great to see the new Musqueam Cultural Center! Obviously, Musqueam has a close relationship with the Museum of Anthropology; can you tell me why then it was so important to also have a cultural center that Musqueam is running for itself?


TP: I think it’s important for our community, to exhibit that pride in our art that is still surviving within the community, being able to showcase it to the world in our own voice, in a sense. At the Museum of Anthropology, we had a chance to do that as well in the Multiversity Galleries, but in the other spaces you don’t really hear that voice. To have it physically in our space, to be able to have the community have a voice, as well; outside of the curatorship and the team that works within the space, the community has a voice. The next exhibit coming up is a youth exhibit, called Musqueam Youth Claiming Space, and that’s also huge for us because those youth have never had an opportunity to showcase any of their art. There are a lot of young artists within our community, they don’t have a venue to showcase that art, so having a space like that gives us the opportunity to let them have a voice as well, and put our youth in the limelight. It gives them an opportunity to reach out to some of the older artists, to be able to guide them. So that’s huge as well. And then, also, to promote who we are as a culture and get it out there in the community, because I don’t think we do that enough. This gives us a venue to be able to do that.


MK: When we were there for the Approaching the Past event, we got to see them, but maybe you could talk a little bit about the two exhibits that are on at the Center right now.


TP: Sure. First, Baskets for Barter. Baskets for Barter is a travelling exhibit that started at the Surrey Museum, and it was curated by one of our community members, Jordan Wilson, along with help from Surrey Museum. All of the written materials that we have were already produced, which was good. We used the basketry collection that we have, and some of the stuff we borrowed from basket collectors that were exhibited in the Surrey Museum. But also, we've got some collections donated back to our community. We used more contemporary art from Musqueam. The original show focused on the whole of the Fraser River, but we basically only have enough room to focus on Musqueam. Then there's Te Ara: Maori Pathways to Leadership. It’s a travelling exhibition as well; it’s actually also in Europe, it’s in Hamburg Germany as well as here. This is the only North American stop. It’s curated by Paul Tapsell and Merata Kawharu and the photos are taken by Krzysztof Pfeiffer. When they worked at the Auckland Museum with Krzysztof Pfeiffer, they did a trip around New Zealand and travelled to different communities talking to them about the artifacts they had within their museum. Out of all of that work, they had an enormous amount of photographs, so they chose five different communities to focus on, and then they talked about the past, the present, and the future, and building leaders within the Maori culture and community. One of the main reasons that it’s great to have the exhibition here is that we can share space with a different Indigenous culture. We’re also using it as a springboard to foster our own leadership, and we’re planning an exchange in March to open the exhibition in March. So we've got a catalogue that we're selling for $20, so that you can use it to do self-guided tours of the photo exhibition. We’re using that money raised to help the kids go down to New Zealand. We’re hoping to take between four and eight youth from Musqueam down to Rotorua for about ten days.  


Baskets for Barter and Te Ara: Maori Pathways to Leadership are both running at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Center until February 28, 2014. For more information about the Te Ara catalogues, click here. A big thank you to Terry Point for speaking with me!

Photo: This house post was unveiled on UBC campus in Vancouver, BC, Canada behind the Museum of Anthropology building on March 3, 1997. It was designed by Susan Point. Wikipedia Commons, by Leoboudv.