THUNDER BAY - A new recognition wall at the City of Thunder Bay’s archives recognizing Indigenous people and traditions is meant to make the space welcoming and inclusive to all residents.
The Indigenous Recognition Wall was unveiled on Wednesday at the Harry Kirk Archives and Record Centre and includes a land acknowledgement, the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850, a declaration of commitment to strengthening the relationship between the city and Indigenous people, and an archival image of Anemki Wajiw, also known as Thunder Mountain or Mount McKay.
Former city archivist Matt Szybalski, who retired this past summer, said the mural became near and dear to him before he left the position.
“The purpose of it is to make the archives a more welcoming place for everyone to come in and use it. It’s what we could do in the path for reconciliation,” he said.
“It comes from the heart. That was advice that one of the assistant directors of the National Archives had told me when looking for ways to enact the recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation, to make sure you do it from the heart.”
Szybalski added that as a student of history a long time ago, he learned a lot about Canada’s past, but formal education regarding Indigenous peoples was limited.
“I learned more from the [city's] Aboriginal Liaison Office than I did from any history professor,” he said.
And while the archives do not contain records relating to residential schools, as they were not administered by municipalities, Szybalski said because it is the repository of municipal records for the city, it needs to be accessible and welcoming to all residents.
“Indigenous people are residents of Thunder Bay and may have issues they are concerned about and want to research that the municipal government did impact. This is the corporate memory of the municipality,” he said. “We are hoping when they come in that door, they see this on the wall and feel this is a place they feel comfortable in and be accepted.”