Fraser River Discovery Centre to showcase Indigenous heritage and culture

The Place of Learning is expected to be open to the public in three to five years

Fraser River Discovery Center in New Westminster. (Alamy)

The Musqueam Indian Band and the Fraser River Discovery Centre Society have released a proposal to create a Learning Place where people can gain an “understanding of Indigenous heritage [and share] information about the teachings with all of those in the community of the traditional territory.”

The Learning Place is expected to be a permanent exhibit in the FRDCS, and the details about what will be showcased will be developed by the MIB, FRDCS, and other potential partners.

Mark Rizzo, Chair of the FRDCS, says the Society has worked with the MIB for many years and wants to educate and inform the public about the stories of the Fraser River.

“We’re starting out with Musqueam. We’re hoping to expand this to the entire length of the Fraser, in terms of what we want to do with the Place of Learning,” Rizzo says.

Discussions on what the Place of Learning will look like and reaching out to potential partners will start in the new year, Rizzo adds.

The Place of Learning “could take the form of an exhibit, but we want it to be more than that,” Rizzo says. “We want it to be a teaching opportunity and an opportunity for discussions.”

“We want there to be dialogue and what’s really important for us is that this is led by the Musqueam.”

Nolan Charles, Councillor of the MIB, says the Place of Learning is to start the dialogue so history can be told from a First Nations perspective.

“Any history books or any history of the Lower Mainland is written from a non-Native perspective,” Charles says. “We want to tell the story, but we want to be inclusive, under UNDRIP, and Truth and Reconciliation.”

“It’s about the communities coming together,” he adds.

UNDRIP is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which seeks to protect Indigenous rights in countries worldwide.

Charles says the goal is to begin telling the story from an Indigenous person’s perspective and then bringing in partners who can make it a “quality facility.”

Stephen Bruyneel, Director of External Relations and Development for the FRDCS, says many people in British Columbia and across Canada don’t know what UNDRIP is or what truth and reconciliation is.

Investing in a place that teaches the history of the Indigenous Peoples is important, says Bruyneel.

Rizzo says Truth and Reconciliation and UNDRIP are important to the world and to Canada.

“[We need] to have each other understand the history that the First Nations have brought to this land,” Rizzo says. “They were here first.”

“It’s really important to continue on that path of reconciliation and that dialogue to understand what history has brought to where we’re at and where we can go from here,” Rizzo says.

When the Place of Learning opens, Rizzo wants the public to get a broad understanding of First Nations culture and heritage. He also wants people to hear the stories of the Indigenous Peoples along the Fraser River, and across the province.