african masksAboriginal Fishing
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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reel big fish

McCord Museum of Canadian History 
690 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec  H3A 1E9 Canada
Phone: (514) 398-7100
Fax: (514) 398-5045
E-mail: info*mccord.mcgill.ca

Cross Currents
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing 
in Atlantic Canada

May 20, 2005 to April 30, 2006 www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/ 

reel big fishingJack Solomon, a Maliseet, canoeing with fish leister Kingsclear, New Brunswick, 1910. (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 16448).

11,000 Years of Aboriginal reel big fish

MONTRÉAL, CANADA.- For over 500 generations, Native peoples have fished the rich waters of Atlantic Canada. Cross Currents — 500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing in Atlantic Canada traces the evolving story of changing landscapes, fishing technologies and human interactions from 11,000 years ago to the present day. This traveling exhibition, produced by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, appears at the McCord Museum in Montréal until April 30, 2006.

Cross Currents reveals how an intimate knowledge of the environment and specialized fishing technologies enabled Aboriginal people to reap a rich harvest of marine resources for many thousands of years. Drawing on oral tradition and historical and archaeological research, it tells the story of the changing landscapes, fishing techniques and human encounters that shaped the Atlantic Aboriginal fishery over the millennia.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring this glimpse of the east coast Aboriginal fishery to Montreal’s doorstep,” says the McCord’s Executive Director, Dr. Victoria Dickenson. “The story told in Cross Currents is complex and compelling, adding layers of understanding to on-going discussions of conservation and resource management.”

To help tell this story, Cross Currents features 170 bone, ivory, antler and stone tools dating from the past 11,000 years, including unique artifacts made by the now extinct Beothuk people of Newfoundland. Also featured are 4,000-year-old walrus ivory tools. The walrus was a once an important resource for Aboriginal people, who highly valued the animal’s hide, ivory and oil. Cross Currents also shows how expert knowledge of fish behavior and seasonal spawning patterns was key to the survival of Aboriginal communities.

In addition, the exhibition sheds light on the ways the Aboriginal fishery changed after the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the dramatic impact of the government’s reserve system on the access of Aboriginal people to their traditional marine resources. A rare film produced in 1936 on 19th-century porpoise hunting tells the dramatic story of a once important commercial porpoise oil industry to Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples. Cross Currents examines new conservation initiatives and some of the challenges facing First Peoples, such as the Mi’kmaq of New Brunswick, engaged in the Atlantic fishery.

A full gamut of cultural programs is offered in conjunction with Cross Currents. In addition to specially designed school programs, there will be hands-on activities related to Aboriginal heritage and archeology available at all times in the exhibition hall.

Cross Currents is on view at the McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal) until April 30, 2006. The McCord is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, and on weekends, and Mondays during the summer months from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission (including taxes) is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, $5.50 for students, $3 for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and $20 for families. Museum admission is available free of charge to members, children aged 5 and under, and to all on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 12 pm. 

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The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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