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Road Trip 2013

This year, Hans Einar and I decided to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest region of the US and Canada.  For him, the anthropologist, it was a destination for learning about the American Indians (or, as Canadians refer to them, the First Nations).  For me, the nostalgia buff, it was to be a trip down memory lane with a visit to Portland, Oregon, a city that was my home from age 4 until 6 days before my 10th birthday, when we immigrated to Canada. And then there were friends and other sights to visit in-between.

Mum at 80

Our trip started separately, when I left Hans Einar at home to spread the word of health promotion to young nurses and flew to Houston to visit my parents.  It was a short trip but a special one.  The highlight was a “surprise” birthday party for my mother to celebrate her 80th birthday.   Mum has been a docent at the Holocaust Museum of Houston since it opened in 1996.  Every time I visit the museum, I meet staff and docents who tell me what a wonderful woman my mother is, how kind and knowledgeable she is and how proud I must be of her (which I am).  I wanted to allow all those people to celebrate her and I wanted to be there.  Suzanne Sutherland, the Museum’s Director of Visitor and Volunteer Services and a good friend, was my partner in crime (she made it all happen).  On Tuesday, 17 September, Mum walked into a room full of colleagues, docents, friends and family who yelled, “surprise”and, from that moment on, Mum cried…

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Vancouver, British Columbia

A 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle took us over the Canadian border and up to Vancouver.  Our primary destination was the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on the beautiful campus of the University of British Columbia (remember my husband, the anthropologist?).

Anthropologist in his element...

We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for a tour given by Bill McLennen, the museum’s curator.  He has worked at the MOA for 37 years and will retire at the end of October 2013.  Bill led us through the special exhibit “Speaking to Memory:  Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Residential School”.  The Indian residential school system was implemented in 1879 by the Canadian government to eliminate the “Indian problem” by absorbing the Aboriginal population into the dominant Canadian identity by imposing Christianity, English or French language and the abandonment of cultural and family traditions. This exhibit tells the story of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School that was operated from 1929 to 1974 in the village of Alert Bay on Comorant Island.  During the late 1930s, Beverley Brown, a student at the school was given a camera and photographed her friends and classmates.  She recently donated the photos to the MoA archives.  Many of the children were not identified when she donated the photos.  The photos are now hung with a transparent sheet on top.  Felt pens are available in the exhibit and individuals are encouraged to write in the names of the children they recognise.

Children at St. Micheal's Residential School, Alert Bay, British Columbia
Children at St. Micheal’s Residential School, Alert Bay, British Columbia

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