Governor general Mary Simon grants viceregal patronage to Peterborough’s Canadian Canoe Museum

Reflecting reconciliation focus of Canada's first Indigenous governor general, museum is incorporating Indigenous voices in its exhibits and collection

Canada's first Indigenous governor general, Mary Simon was sworn in on July 26, 2021. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall © OSGG-BSGG, 2021)
Canada's first Indigenous governor general, Mary Simon was sworn in on July 26, 2021. (Photo: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall © OSGG-BSGG, 2021)

Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous governor general, has granted viceregal patronage to Peterborough’s Canadian Canoe Museum, the museum announced on Wednesday (August 10).

The governor general grants patronage to national organizations that demonstrate outstanding contributions to society by supporting and promoting Canadian values, diversity, inclusion, culture, and knowledge.

The Canadian Canoe Museum, which is currently constructing a new home on the waterfront at Little Lake in Peterborough, has the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks, and paddled watercraft.

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As part of its process to design and develop exhibits at the new facility, the museum has invited Indigenous peoples to share their stories in their own voices. The museum is reconnecting the watercraft to their Indigenous communities of origin, and has developed a collaborative relations process to work together to care for the canoes and share the cultural histories and stories held within the collection.

“We believe that, as sites of cultural and historical preservation, museums play a key role in shaping our understanding of our past and collective future,” says the museum’s executive director Carolyn Hyslop in a media release. “Indigenous peoples around the world designed, built, and used the first canoes and kayaks.”

“These vessels retain their enduring connection to Indigenous cultures across Canada and are powerful living embodiments of knowledge, languages, and beliefs. Through the collaborative relations process, we are working with communities to share these stories, perspectives, languages, and voices throughout the new exhibits and museum.”

The Canadian Canoe Museum commissioned renowned birchbark canoe builder Todd Labrador and his family to build an ocean-going Mi'kmaq canoe for the museum's collection. (Photo: Todd Labrador)
The Canadian Canoe Museum commissioned renowned birchbark canoe builder Todd Labrador and his family to build an ocean-going Mi’kmaq canoe for the museum’s collection. (Photo: Todd Labrador)

Michi Saagiig Anishnaabemowin (the local Anishnaabemowin dialect) will be included on exterior and interior signage in the new museum, along with English and French, with additional Indigenous languages to be featured in exhibits relating to specific watercraft.

The museum has also commissioned new canoe and kayak builds from Inuit and First Nations communities and builders to fill gaps in the museum’s collection and to allow for a greater diversity of stories to be shared and to preserve and pass down traditional knowledge to younger generations.

As Canada’s first Indigenous governor general, Mary Simon has focused her efforts on reconciliation. Victoria Grant, chair of the museum’s board and a member of Temagami First Nation, says the canoe is an important part of the reconciliation process.

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“Together, we need to learn, understand, and acknowledge our shared history,” Grant states. “We can’t do that without first knowing and understanding the impact of the canoe in Canada’s story, from those very early times when the first visitors came to our shores. The Canadian Canoe Museum provides us with an opportunity to learn, to feel, to smell, and to see the canoe in its diversity and diversity and endurance.”

Viceregal patronage does not mean the governor general will be involved in the museum’s governance or its fundraising efforts, and does not guarantee the governor general’s involvement in or attendance at events held by the museum.

The new Canadian Canoe Museum is expected to open in the summer of 2023.