Ancient Indigenous recordings discovered at Museum London
A local student’s research into the Anishinaabeg people’s involvement in the War of 1812 has led to the discovery of ancient recordings stored at Museum London.
The recordings were donated to the museum more than 40 years ago, featuring Robert Thompson, Saugeen First Nation resident, singing and telling stories about the Anishinaabeg people.
The recordings were taped by Dr. Edwin Seaborn, founder of University Hospital in London, 80 years ago in 1938.
Bimadoshka Pucan, Western University PhD candidate, is a member of the Saugeen First Nation. She says the project took a long time with pieces of the puzzle scattered all over the forest city.
A huge portion was at Western University Weldon library, along with documents and journals found at the London public library. The final piece was the wax cylinders and discs located at the museum.
“I can hear you!” were the first words Pucan screamed when she heard the voice of her ancestor.
Pucan says she began crying and was unable to contain her excitement.
“The anticipation, the waiting, and all the frustration, and the joy. It was all balled up into one,” Pucan said.
In one of the recordings, Thompson spoke about a woman finding these recordings but not knowing what to do with them.
Pucan tells 980 CFPL she was floored when she heard the prophecy, as she was born in 1975, which is the same year the artifacts were donated to the museum.
“It’s almost as if these recordings started to move when I started to move,” Pucan said.
Pucan sought the help of elders when trying to understand the recordings because she wasn’t fluent in her language. She says every time she played the recordings to them, they would all say the same thing.
“These recordings are for you and you need to figure out how you are going to move forward with this work,” Pucan said.
She took on the responsibility of being the steward of the songs and stories.
The recordings are distributed to elders of First Nation groups to share with members of their community.
Pucan wants to encourage young people who are interested in learning about the history to sit down with the elders. She’s looking to travel with the exhibits to each First Nation community, as well as create a medium where members of her community can record and store their own history for future generations.
Pucan received two honorary eagle feathers for her discovery, which she says beats any university degree she has ever received.
Museum London is hosting a Voices of Chief’s Point exhibit to showcase the recordings, which runs from May 12 to Sept. 16.
Anyone who wants to learn more about the exhibition is advised to visit their website.
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