Birchbark collection from Brunswick House Nation received by Royal Ontario Museum

Thursday, March 15th, 2018 10:41am


Image Caption

Mona Redbreast of Brunswick House First Nation examines a birchbark canoe, part of Candassie collection. Photo by Xavier Kataquapit

First Nation history was celebrated at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto on March 13. Photo by Xavier Kataquapit

From L-R: Chief Lisa Vanbuskirk, Brunswick House FN; Trudy Nicks, Curator Emeritus, Department of World Cultures, ROM; Susan Harvie, Collection Donor; Brunswick House FN Councillor Charmine Saunders, Brunswick House FN Councillor Robert Redbreast and Naomi Recollet, Rebanks Technician Intern Anthropology Department, ROM

By Xavier Kataquapit Contributor

Brunswick House First Nation, located near Chapleau, Ont., celebrated the inclusion of a collection of birchbark containers and model canoes to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto on March 13. The 16 containers and two model canoes were handmade in the 1940s and 1950s by Joseph and Clara Candassie, who were original Ojibway members of Brunswick House First Nation.

The birchbark items were designated as of ‘outstanding significance and of national importance’ by the government of Canada. They were donated to the museum by Susan Harvie of Ravenna, Ont. She had acquired the collection from the estate of her mother Madeleine Boucher Harvie, a cousin Elizabeth Austin and a friend Helen Campbell.

Harvie said the need to find a perfect environment for the artifacts was behind providing ROM with the collection.         

“These pieces represent part of the history of Brunswick House First Nation. Most important is that Brunswick House stays part of the story. If these items just went from my mother to me and to the ROM, then they would be just baskets, however, with the stories of Brunswick House they become very special,” said Harvie.

 “I am so happy and excited that myself and more than a hundred people from our First Nation are here today to honor the memory of our ancestors and their way of life,” said Chief Lisa Vanbuskirk of Brunswick House First Nation.  “It is very satisfying to see the Candassie family craft work become part of a collection here at the Royal Ontario Museum.”

J'net Ayayqwayaksheelth, Indigenous outreach and learning coordinator at ROM, was on hand to show the Candassie collection and lead a tour of the First People’s Gallery.

“This all started when Susan approached the community a couple of years ago and, thanks to the work of so many of our leadership, Elders and community members, we are here today with our children and grandchildren to see these historic artifacts at the Royal Ontario Museum,” said Tangie. “I almost cried this morning as I was filled with so much emotion and happiness to see our people honoured.”

First Nation councillors in attendance at the museum were Jennifer Wesley, Charmaine Saunders, Robert Saunders, Angela Saunders and Cheryl St Denis.

“This is awesome to be able to see our ancestral community members honoured by having their work become part of the Royal Ontario Museum. It is great to see all of our children today being able to witness this celebration of the history of our community. For many of them it is their first visit to Toronto and to the museum and they will remember this for the rest of their lives,” said Venedam.

Trudy Nicks, curator emeritus, department of World Cultures at ROM, presented the Candassie Collection. She was assisted by Naomi Recollet of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, who is the Rebanks Technician intern for the Anthropology department at ROM and Tracey Forster, a technician in the Anthropology Department at ROM.

“Susan Harvie brought the collection to us with the support of the First Nation. All of the pieces had to go through a lengthy process and it emerged that they were of historic significance to northern Ontario and Brunswick House First Nation. The long-term goal of acquiring this collection is to show these items and tell the stories associated with them,” said Nicks.

Dozens of Brunswick House children donned gloves to handle the birchbark artifacts which originated from their community.

“It’s great to be here today, because this is special for our community. I am here with everyone to see what our ancestors did a long time ago and also to enjoy the city of Toronto and have some fun,” said 15-year-old Jacy Jolivet of Brunswick House Nation.

Brunswick House First Nation members attended the Royal Ontario Museum to celebrate the inclusion of ancestral artifacts as part of the Candassie birchbark collection on March 13. Photo by Xavier Kataquapit