Wampum belt (detail), Huron-Wendat ?, late 18th-early 19th. Gift of David Ross McCord, M1913 © McCord Museum

A place of dialogue

Jonathan Lainey, Curator, Indigenous Cultures, explains his deep commitment to strengthening the Museum's ties with Indigenous peoples.

My first real encounter with the McCord Museum was in the early 2000s when I consulted David Ross McCord’s notes from his visit to Wendake more than a century earlier. Since then, its outstanding collection has often engaged and fascinated me. Therefore, I was excited and very pleased to join the dedicated team at the McCord Museum in February of this year.

It is truly an honour for me to help foster dialogue and a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures. As Curator of Indigenous Cultures at the McCord Museum, I wish to become an active participant in Montreal’s Indigenous community, which has been highly visible, engaged and growing for many years. One of my priorities is to build relationships with my colleagues, whether they work in museums, universities or Indigenous organizations. I want to take an active part in dialogue, discussions and reflections, as well as develop joint projects to better promote Indigenous heritage and showcase the McCord’s collection.

Wampum belt, Huron-Wendat ?, late 18th-early 19th. Gift of David Ross McCord, M1913 © McCord Museum

We must listen to Indigenous individuals and communities if we are to consider their needs and aspirations; this is necessary to remain relevant to them, the primary stakeholders. Of course, this includes those outside the Montreal region whose material culture and heritage are preserved in the Museum. As part of these efforts, we must also recognize sometimes diverging viewpoints and dare to try new things, if need be.

My primary goal is to shine a light on Indigenous voices and perspectives whenever possible, to enable communities to tell their stories and talk about their realities, both past and present. Rather than impose my personal vision, I prefer to act as an intermediary to ensure that these unique viewpoints are incorporated into the Museum’s various initiatives.

In addition to helping develop Indigenous content for the Museum’s different projects, I intend to further my knowledge of our rich, remarkable collection, which, it must be noted, has been in the very capable hands of curator Guislaine Lemay for many years. I intend, of course, to spotlight this collection by researching the history of these objects, a fascinating and complex exercise.

If reconciliation is about improving what we know and understand about each other, it also means talking and sharing together.

The McCord Museum has adopted the mission to engage with Indigenous cultures, appreciate their riches, refinement and tremendous diversity, and recognize their expertise, wisdom and world view; this is my mission as well.

I look forward to welcoming you to the Museum, as soon as it reopens, so I may share my enthusiasm for our collection and the Museum’s ongoing Indigenization process.