As part of the Treaty Training workshop I participated in at the Manitoba Museum on Monday we looked at some of the museum’s exhibits and tried to see them from a First Nations’ perspective.
I’ve toured the Nonsuch ship in the museum many times. As I’ve explored the cramped living quarters below deck I’ve thought about what it must have been like for the sailors who lived aboard the vessel in 1668 as the ship made the 118 day voyage from England to Canada to trade for beaver pelts with the Cree. I’ve wondered at the ingenuity of the ship builders and thought about the historical importance of the crew members because the success of their voyage led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company. I’ve wondered how the sailors might have spent their very first winter in the cold of James Bay.
Our guide asked us to look at the ship again however and imagine what might have been going on in the minds of the First Nations people who first saw the Nonsuch when it arrived in Canada on its maiden voyage. Aboriginal Canadians might have been thinking………
Who are these men? Will they be the same or different than their people who have visited us before? How did they build such a massive ship out of wood? What do they want here? How can they expect to spend the winter here when they don’t have the things they will need to survive? We may need to help them make it through the winter. Why have they traveled without any women? Why are our furs of value to them? What will they do with a ship full of beaver pelts where they come from? How will their presence in our community change our way of life? Should we be afraid of these people or should they be afraid of us? Once they leave will we ever see them again?