Heritage Education

You’re going to get sick of seeing this, and I apologise. I don’t normally launch one-woman campaigns like this, but this one is an exception, I think.

When The Captain was in third grade, his class went on a school trip to the Motherwell Homestead. It may be a notable excursion in that I was a) not asked to leave the tour, and b) not in need of air-lift rescue. Also, both of my children returned intact, and stitchless (Stitchface, aka The Nipper, also came along with us).

The Motherwell Homestead is important for a number of reasons. First, it’s been declared a National Historic Site. That’s pretty important. Second, it is one of the oldest working farms in Canada. Certainly one of the oldest in western Canada. And by ‘oldest working farm’ here, I mean ‘oldest working farm that’s working in the same way it was working over a hundred years ago’.

So the Federal Government, in its infinite wisdom (/* <– sarcasm arm) has decided to severely reduce Heritage and Museums Canada funding. Because nothing says “we value our people” more than forgetting their histories, heritage, and stories. Anyway. One of the results of this asinine decision is that the people at Parks Canada who do the budgeting want to axe the educational programming at the Motherwell Homestead.

What does that mean?

Well, if you haven’t been to Motherwell, I’ll just list the things that will probably be gone should this decision go through:

1) The Working Horse program – the Motherwell Homestead includes a farm that is worked the way our great-grandparents would have worked their farms in the 19th century. With horse-drawn ploughs, threshing machines, and hay carts.

2) Interpretive employees – the people who work at Motherwell all wear period costumes and learn the history of life on a pioneer  homestead. They show kids the toys that the kids of the 1800s would have played with on the farm (the tug-of-war between ALL OF THE KIDS and me was awesome…and watching a bunch of nine year olds trying to carry eggs on spoons had me cracking up).

3) The farm itself – I don’t know, but I suspect the horses will be gone, the cows they use for demonstrations (kids can learn to milk cows). The pigs will be gone, the chickens will be gone, and, probably, the amazing garden will be gone. They use the produce from the garden in the restaurant and at local farmers’ markets. They use the eggs in the restaurant. They probably use the pigs in the restaurant too…

4) An important piece of history and of our provincial heritage will be lost. The proposal is to produce a self-guided tour. With no one in period costume. With no hands-on exhibits. With no “pioneer experience”. With no smell of horses and demonstration of how to saddle a horse. With no PEOPLE.

History is the story of what has gone before. It is the story of the past. Heritage is the story of our PEOPLE. It is the story of where we have come from, who we were, how we lived, how we worked, how we died. Heritage is the tale passed down at every kitchen table about the time Uncle fell in the slop bucket and ended up sleeping with the pigs. It is the story about the women in the parlour who had to stay on one side of the curtain because women and men did not sit together after dinner. It is the connexions between us and among us. Heritage is where we have been, and that plays a big part in who we are now and where we are going.

“Guess what this was used for?” Won’t be something asked by a self-guided walking tour. You won’t see thirty wide-eyed children (and nine bored little pishers off in the corner trying to catch flies off the windowsill) all trying to answer at once. You won’t take home quilted swatches (another thing the staff at the Motherwell Homestead do – they teach quilting and, I think, baking). You won’t take home jars of Homestead honey or sandwiches made from wheat harvested *by hand* on a pioneer farm.

Think about this. Please think about signing this petition. Don’t let the federal government tell us that our heritage isn’t important enough to have people tell the stories to teach us.

Here is the petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/enironment-canada-parks-canada-maintain-the-historical-integrity-of-the-motherwell-n-h-s#

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

5 Comments

  1. Signed it!

    I’m angry about the cuts to parks and museums. Maybe it’s part of a bigger plot to quash children’s curiosity about the world?

    1. Thanks, Ben!

      I think it’s just part of our current government’s larger plan to get out of the business of doing anything meaningful for the people of Canada.

  2. The funny thing, is often supporters of cuts like this will counter with “What, do you want them to raise taxes instead? Do you want your TAXES to go UP?” To which my response is “Uh, yeah, sure.” I think a lot of people would be perfectly happy with a tax raise to cover the stuff that is important to them.

    Of course, the real problem is that whole “stuff that is important to them” bit varies a lot from person to person. ;)

    1. I think the state of arts, culture, & in many cases, science education is in pretty bad shape in this country. We aren’t teaching people why these things are important. We don’t know how to value these things.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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