Dr. Anne Anderson, well-known Metis Elder and director of the Native Heritage and Culture Centre in Edmonton, has rejected an offer from the Glenbow Museum to perform during the Spirit Sings exhibition and has sided with the Lubicon Lake Indian band's boycott of the Olympic Games.
In a letter to the Museum, a copy of which was obtained by Windspeaker, Anderson informed Dr. Hugh Dempsey, Glenbow's associate director that the exhibition's theme of 'from oral tradition to the written work is not supported by the museum itself.
Anderson, who has been trying to research the background of Cree syllabary, says the research has been blocked by Dempsey.
"You have told our Governor-General . . . that she should no longer support research into the origins of my people's writing form when the evidence of the ancient origins of this writing form is abundant."
Anderson goes on to say that Dempsey supports the idea that James Evans, a methodist missionary, invented the syllables in 1840, but she contends that "Evans could or would not have desired to invent such a writing form when the object was to teach the aboriginal peoples his way, not the way of non-Natives."
"My Cree writing system is not yours to suppress the investigation of, particularly not when the Governor-General is seeking good and fair advice regarding her support . . . therefore, until this matter is settled, that is, until Glenbow develops the respect for Native culture it is so capable of, my centre will not cooperate with your programs."
However, contacted at his office in the Glenbow museum, Dempsey said he was "mystified" over the letter, saying he had not received any communication with Dr. Anne directly, but rather executive director Buff Parry.
"As far as I remember, I was asked for an opinion on studying the La Verendrye expedition. For some reason the rumor that La Verendrye travelled to the Crowsnest pass have been circulating, but he only travelled as far north as the Black Hills of Dakota," said Dempsey, who expressed his regret that Anderson will not be participating in the exhibition.
Dempsey denied he had blocked any investigation of the Cree syllabary, saying he "had not been asked to give an opinion" on any investigation.
Director of the museum, Duncan Cameron refused to comment on the Anderson withdrawal, saying he had not received a copy of the letter. And Colleen Anderson-Millard, the coordinator of the exhibition, refused to comment or give any details on the Native author's event.
Contacted just before leaving New York this week, Lubicon Lake Chief Bernard Ominayak said he was pleased with Anderson's decision and "other Native people who got on board because we will be stronger."
Ominayak met with Anderson December 2 and said they "had a good meeting." Another meeting is planned for next week Anderson has yet to receive communication from the Glenbow museum but after meeting with Ominayak says she feels "a new unity among Native people."
"We are never listened to," she said. "I always hear comments from people asking why Native people never do any research, but we are always blocked. . . . what are they afraid of?"