New museum exhibit focusing on the history of Whitecap Dakota First Nation officially opens to public

People visiting the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon will now be able to learn part of the history of Whitecap Dakota First Nation.

The museum and the First Nation partnered together to co-curate a new exhibit, which officially opened to the public this week.

The exhibit is known as Wapaha Sǩa Oyate: Living Our Culture, Sharing Our Community at Pion-Era 1955-1969. It focuses on a period of time when the Whitecap community would come into Saskatoon every summer to participate in the Hertiage Exhibit at the Western Development Museum.

The exhibit came about when the museum found old photos from the Heritage Exhibit and sought out elders from Whitecap Dakota First Nation to help identify people in the photos. The museum curators and Whitecap elders would then begin a partnership to not only identify the people in the photos, but to develop this new exhibit as well.

“It was easy to say yes let’s do this,” said Whitecap Chief Darcy Bear when speaking with MBC News on the exhibit. “Whitecap practices partnership and you see that today with all of our partnerships… even the word Dakota means ally in our language. I was glad to be here this evening to witness the exhibit and see some of our elders witness it as well.”

An official ribbon cutting was held at the Western Development Museum on Tuesday evening with several dignitaries, museum curators, and members of Whitecap Dakota First Nation on hand for the ceremony.

“We want to share with Saskatchewan our shared treaty history,” said Dr. Elizabeth Scott a curator for the exhibit when speaking at the ceremony.

“I commend both groups for bringing light to the past and showcasing Dakota culture,” said Saskatchewan’s Leiutenat Governor Russ Mirasty.

Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand spoke highly of Whitecap Dakota First Nation and what they were able to achieve in this exhibit.

“This kind of stuff is not taught in schools and it has to be,” said Arcand. “It has to change the system and show that equality of Indigenous people brings value.”

Throughout the ceremony, many spoke on the invaluable effort of Whitecap elder Melvin Littlecrow in bringing the exhibit to life. Littlecrow, passed away in 2021, but many said the exhibit would not have happened if it wasn’t for his involvement.

“He played a big part in identifying a lot of people in those photos,” said Chief Darcy Bear. “Not only that, but he also knew the names of the horses and the dogs.”

(PHOTO – Melvin Littlecrow’s daughter and granddaughter joined by several dignitaries help cut the ribbon to unveil the new exhibit. Photo by Joel Willick.)

Anyone from the public can now view this new exhibit. The museum is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

(TOP PHOTO – One of the photo displays from the exhibit. Photo by Joel Willick.)