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Born With a Drum – Education Among First Nations

Stylized tipi inside WDM exhibit gallery

In 2002, an exhibit on First Nations education, including a history of residential schools, was suggested by Elders at a workshop organized by the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC) and held at the WDM Saskatoon. In a 1993 publication, A Dené Perspective, it is said the child is born with a drum in its hand. This reflected the Elders’ wisdom shared at the workshop and so it was chosen as the exhibit title. Based on the Elders’ guidance, SICC and WDM researchers developed an exhibit storyline, which incorporates five strands:

1. a general introduction to First Nations education;
2. traditional learning;
3. Treaty right to education;
4. Residential schooling; and
5. the future of First Nations education.

The exhibit reflects a tipi, with artifacts, photographs, artwork, maps and information around the outside of the structure. Inside, an audio-visual presentation introduces Museum visitors to words spoken in English, French, Cree, Dené, and Saulteaux.

Artifacts include a drum, a replica of a Treaty medal, dolls dressed in Residential school uniforms made by Dora Stevenson of Fort Qu’Appelle, student items from the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and the First Nations University of Canada, and a sculpture entitled Pre-Mysteries carved in 2005 by Mervin Dieter of the Peepeekisis First Nation. A large map shows First Nations linguistic groups, Treaty areas, and the First Nations in Saskatchewan.

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