American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
With the expectation that the Pacific Northwest Coast is due for another Cascadia Subduction Zone mega-quake like the January 26th, 1700 earthquake and tsunami that caused great damage and loss of life, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (MOA) is undergoing seismic upgrades. To explain the architectural reconstruction and engineering necessary to install base-isolation technology in the Great Hall and the temporarily resting totem poles awaiting new mounts and potential conservation, Jill Baird and I curated the exhibition Shake Up: Preserving What We Value.
In this multi-media exhibition, oral and visual histories of Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples provide insights into family teachings communicated through narrative, song, dance, and material representation. By listening to the voices of Indigenous artists and cultural authorities who express inherited experiences of earthquakes and tsunamis, this exhibition models disaster preparedness by educating about ecological relations.
In this paper, I explore the generative effects of displaying Indigenous ways of knowing and representing disasters and their aftermaths of recovery and cultural strengthening. What messages are sent and received by sharing Indigenous perspectives on land and water stewardship with local and global museum publics? What transformations of relations occur when the Museum emphasizes the rich and robust strategies of Indigenous community resilience built up over hundreds of years? I conclude by considering whether MOA’s ‘culture of care’ for people, place, and heritage has the potential to ‘shake up’ colonial and Canadian legacies of Indigenous erasure by replacing with respectful healing and thriving futures.