2018 June 23 – Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (Part 2)

We were undecided if we wished to visit the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre or not.  We have toured several First Nation’s or Aboriginal Museums and weren’t sure we needed to see another one.  However, we were near the building so we decided to go inside and see what exhibits were on display.  Two hours or more later we re-emerged!

Now, if you have read any of my blogs before you know I love museums and I take a million photos of the displays and information placards.  Today was no exception.  This is why I have split today’s blog into two parts; so anyone who wants to skip this museum part can do so.

The Prince of Wales Heritage Centre is like many museums; a large, two-story building with vast amounts of open, unused space and long corridors.  However, it was a lovely building and they had some very well done exhibits.

Just off the entrance was an exhibit by the local Philippine community.  Who knew there was a large Filippino population in  Yellowknife?   Not me.  Turns out there are about 2,200 of them up here – which is equal to about 10% of the population of the city. Off to the side of the long, sloping hallway to the galleries there were three displays related to the history or the peoples of NT.

This was a really good scale model of a typical homesite.  The roof of the shed and half of the cabin were open to expose the furnishings, canoes, sleds and equipment.  It was really cool! I would have loved to have it to play with when I was a child. There were two galleries that displayed dioramas of the animals and birds of the north.  They were beautifully done.  The first was of the animals of the Taiga: To me, the most interesting exhibit in the gallery was the discovery in 2007 of the remains of an extinct Steppe Bison. They also had, in a case, some of the skin and some of the fur/hair.  It is extremely unusual to find such soft-tissuse parts of an ancient creature.

The gallery across the hall was an exhibit of the Tundra. The diaoramas in these two galleries were outstanding.Caribou – they have an annual migration to the calving grounds of thousands and thousands of animals.  This little Yellow Warbler can be seen just past the nose of the moose.                                                                 Tundra SwanThe birds in the ‘air’ are Ross’ Geese, the two on the log are American Wigeons and the one in the ‘water’ is a Greater White Fronted Goose.I liked this photo from a display about the food acquisition skills of the northern people.  Ice fishing with a net!

The fellow at the gas station in Hay River the other day said, “I teach the young people how to thrive in the north.  We don’t teach them survival skills.”  For thousands of years these people have lived off whatever the land and the sea provides for them.

The third gallery on the main floor had an exhibit about the Special Constables of the RCMP in the Northwest Territories.  These were local aboriginal men that assisted the non-northern constables sent up to the territories by the RCMP.  The Special Constables taught them how to live in the north, acted as guides, and were an integral part of the successful operations of the detachment in the remote regions of Canada.

I did not know that they made fancy harnesses for the sled dogs.I was enjoying all the stories so much I forgot to take many photos in that gallery.

The last gallery was upstairs and was called Narrative Threads.  It was photographs or examples of bead work, or crafts, or clothing.  There were dolls made from hide with real muskox coats. There was a hare fur coat for a child and many other beautiful and functional beadwork and hide objects.  My favourite story was at the far end of the room.
There was a video playing that documented the entire process of the construction of this huge canoe.  It took ten people to carry/drag it to the water when it was finished. There are no nails in it.  The bottom frame is made with bent saplings, the large pieces are lashed with rawhide and the moose hides are also stitched together with rawhide.  It was an amazing boat.  A fellow who was watching the video said there were plans to make another one; he thought this year.  What a great way to keep ancient skills alive in the next generation.

That concludes the blog on the museum component of our day.  We had hoped to tour the Diamond Center and learn about the discovery and extraction of Canada’s Polar Bear Diamonds, but it was closed. This is sad because if it is closed on a Saturday, I expect it will also be closed on a Sunday.  Since we leave  Monday morning and have a nine-hour driving day (at least half of it on a gravel road – 629 km or 391 miles) – ahead of us, we will not be staying in Yellowknife until the 10 am opening for the one-hour tour.  Bummer, it would have been interesting I think.

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