I was little, he was old. Like all Catholic children on the reserve, he had attended the community's collège. I discovered it at the age of 6 when we were buying a little wigwam as a souvenir of a visit to the Museum with my parents.
My grandfather had aged and I had too. He and his father personally took part in establishing this museum, like several other members of the nation. This place has continued to nourish and shape Abenaki identity for several generations.
It is with pride that we can find the legacy of our ancestors in the museum, from hand-made objects to old photos exhibited there. We feel at home there and happy because we are full of wonder at the splendour of our culture, too often ignored and always under threat.
Our nation has experienced hard times and despite that, it remains important to preserve, protect and promote our Abenaki heritage. The Museum has played an essential role in this mission for over 40 years. When the question of expanding our building arose, most of us didn't believe in it. A handful of individuals, with this dream in their heads and a commitment to build on the dream, achieved the impossible by creating a new facility worthy of our nation: modern and accessible. A completely transformed space presents our origins in a new way.
Visitors' experience will be entirely unlike what we had been accustomed to. Where there had been old, dark narrow corridors, now we will walk through a great hall with abundant natural light and then discover the new exhibition spaces.
This expansion will allow us to encourage the interest of many people in our culture and identity. It will also encourage youth to meet there as they discover the fascination of visitors from outside. This place bears witness to a long past while it is a place for newcomers' artistic expression.
Our attachment to this place is born from the mystery surrounding our people that has endured through centuries. The future is filled at once with hopes and uncertainty. A nation with no school must count on the Museum now to provide access to our ancestors' culture. This little wigwam, which spurred my imagination so much, still holds a significant place among my souvenirs. Although my grandfather has passed away, I am certain that he will be among us at the official opening. Our ancestors passed an (immaterial) heritage on to us that a visit to the Museum can fully convey.
Jean-François D. O'Bomsawin