When I google with the keywords “heritage photos” and “community health” not surprisingly the web site for Imagine Antigonish is the first site to appear. Nothing else comparable comes up, nothing that uses heritage photos as a resource to thematically illustrate the essential conditions for community health. However, the new Cree Nations Ahtahkakoop Heritage Centre in Prince Albert includes heritage photos (along with videos and paintings) as a resource for intergenerational healing, with particular reference to the experiences of residential school survivors.
Freda Ahenakew, director of Cree Nations Treatment Haven, stood in the middle of the room Tuesday morning, as visitors to the new building streamed by her to view a recording of video clips containing the testimonies of residential school survivors.
She was also one of the main people behind the heritage centre project. From start to finish, the heritage centre took close to a year to come to fruition. “I think it will bring a healing to people because a lot of people don’t want to talk about the negative impact it has on their lives and it filters down to the children … When people start to heal, we become a healthy community, healthy people.”
At the heritage centre, visitors will get to see what happened in the past through videos and testimonies of residential school survivors. She said a majority of the older residents of Ahtahkakoop are former residential school students. For the heritage centre video testimonies, about 70 people were interviewed.
The plan is to have students come into the heritage centre to be educated. Certain video testimonies will be highlighted during the week – she pointed to another Freda Ahenakew, who wrote the book Cree Language Structures. It`s people like her who have contributed to the community that they want to “bring up” for the visitors.
“They can come here and look at the pictures and see what their parents went through, and then to understand where people are coming from.”