by Sean Michael Nelson
“It’s time.” Tonight, as per the Museum Manifesto’s first declaration (“I invite you to participate in this new museum”), Peter invites everyone to participate in the practice of indigenous knowledge. His tone, much like the manifesto’s, is both light and serious. “We’re going to do something different— but it’s performance art—it’s all different.” Academics may describe indigenous knowledge as being relational, he explains, but what Peter’s grandmas say is that “You gotta have tea with me… What does that mean? Just you wait and see.”
DJ Darwin Frost starts his set. Simon Reece begins a song with his drum. Acting as the museum’s river, Tamara Skubovius starts to wash the room’s chalkboard, jumping to reach the top. Words disappear under her brush, turning into white foam slowly working its way to the floor.
Kneeling, Peter dons a mask by wrapping and tying around his head scraps of red fabric that once wrapped family photographs within the Museum, each image unwrapped slowly, over days and weeks, to reveal new knowledge and intention. Morin works these same scraps of fabric until he is blindfolded. Opening several containers of beads, he pours them onto a plate before him. He threads a needle with them and begins sewing them onto leather.
Declaration 19 of Peter’s Museum Manifesto states that “Most of the objects speak Tahltan.” A cassette deck plays a Tahltan language recording in a woman’s voice. With one hand on the deck, and the other holding a pair of scissors, Peter repeats the Tahltan phrases. Standing, scissors in hand, mask on, he carefully works his way to the two video monitors in the room, echoing the songs emanating from them.
He moves to the DJ’s mixing table, placing a hand on it to find his way. The DJ pats his hand and Peter starts bobbing his head, then swaying, as the volume is turned up. Next he dances to Simon’s drumming, singing along as it gets louder.
Passing by the tent within a tent, he comes to the blackboard, dips his free hand in the nearby bucket, and wipes the surface. Returning to the interior tent, he cuts the strings holding it up.
Kneeling again, Peter removes his mask (eyes closed), untying it, then cutting the binding cloth with the scissors he has been holding. His eyes open, “My cousin David is a good teacher—he taught me that it’s our cultural responsibility to find the beauty in all things.” The room applauds.
Manifesto declaration 26 notes that “Indigenous knowledge is made every day.” It was made this night as well. “And,” Peter says, echoing the 14th declaration, “there’s tea!”