Dibaajimowin | Stories of this Land opens at Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum

Posted On Friday September 23, 2022

Waterloo Region – Today the Region of Waterloo Museums opens an all-new, multimedia exhibition at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum that explores the oral histories of Waterloo Region as told through local, Indigenous voices.

Dibaajimowin is curated by Emma Rain Smith who is Anishinaabe from Walpole Island First Nations. She is a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Waterloo currently working on her Masters in Indigenous History. Her work on Dibaajimowin | Stories of this Land highlights the Indigenous stories of and contributions to the history of this land, often overlooked in favour of a well-established settler narrative. However, as Smith and other contributors to Dibaajimowin seek to illustrate, Indigenous and settler stories do not exist independently - rather they live parallel to each other. 

The exhibition utilizes a familiar set of murals painted by Selwyn Dewdney to help illustrate the well-established settler narrative, and provide context for discussion and exploration. Dewdney’s murals, commissioned by the Waterloo Trust and Savings Company in 1950, were once meant to depict the Region’s history. The murals were donated to the Region of Waterloo in the 1990s. “They tell a much-narrowed view of local history, highlighting industry and commercial growth, but,” as Smith explains, “history is not stagnant, and our understanding of it is ever changing. We are aiming to open space for conversations among our communities - creating the possibility for new understandings.”

Literally translating to ‘a story’, the meaning of Dibaajimowin encompasses much more. Its prefix, dib, refers to the head, aajim is the action of telling a story, and the suffix, win is a formal way to complete a word. “When I hear this word, it implies a practice of telling history by recalling these stories from your memory,” explains Smith, the exhibition’s curator. “For example, when a gookumis (grandmother) is sharing her stories with you over tea in her kitchen. This space is filled with stories and different ways to tell stories.”

The exhibition is composed of objects, photographs and art, as well as contemporary works by local Indigenous artists. Dibaajimowin delivers an immersive experience through the use of multimedia, sharing of oral histories by local, Indigenous community members Alanah Jewell, Amy Smoke, Dave Skene, Heather George, Jean Becker and Emma Rain Smith.

Dibaajimowin | Stories of this Land opens at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum today.

Aambe bizindaw - come let’s listen to the oral history of Urban Indigenous folks and the work that we have done and continue to do.