From May 30 to June 7, 2013, seven students from the Kassinu Mamu school in Mashteuiatsh visited the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington. There they saw and studied objects from their community that are part of the holdings of this important museum.
The students Gabrielle Paul, Simon Buissière-Launière, Andrew Duchesne, Myriam-Uapukuniss Duchesne, Dexter-Ozzy Dubé, Annie-Sophie Neashish-Petiquay and Marie-Ange Raphaël-Germain were accompanied by Jeanine Tremblay and Sandy Raphaël as well as by their teacher, Marie-Ève Vanier. The group left Mashteuiatsh on Thursday, May 30, and arrived in Washington on Saturday, June 1st. They were accompanied by research assistants Julian Whittam and Martine Dubreuil.
Over the course of the winter, the students prepared for the trip by working with Louise Siméon of the Musée amérindien de Mashteuiatsh and research assistant Carole Delamour. They familiarised themselves with objects in the Speck Collection at the Musée de Mashteuiatsh and selected about twenty objects at the NMAI to work on during their stay in Washington. They learned about how museums conserve objects in their stores, and how the objects are cared for.
At the NMAI, the students worked with objects from the Speck Collection that they had chosen during the winter. Their contact with the objects was very special, as both the children and the accompanying adults shared their knowledge and feelings as they found themselves in direct contact with these ancient objects which are part of their heritage.
The students were given training in photography and video so that they could put together a presentation for their families when they returned to Mashteuiatsh as a way of sharing what they learned. They visited the storage areas of the museum, as well as the exhibition rooms. While they were in Washington, the students were also able to visit the Capitol building, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Cemetery in Arlington. Some saw the president of the United State’s limousine near their hotel, and a few of them went to a Washington National’s baseball game.
On June 21st, National Aboriginal Day, at the Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh, the students presented what they had learned to the community.