After 62 years, this Innu woman was finally able to see her mother’s work

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Germaine Benuen holding her mother’s moccasins for the first time in the collection warehouse of the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa. (Germaine Benuen / Facebook)

Family heirlooms are often hidden in someone’s basement. For Germaine Benuen, they were stored at the Canadian Museum of History, near Ottawa.

Benuen, who lives in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu in central Labrador, was returning from a three-week trip across the country to British Columbia in September when she followed up on a tip that the beaded moccasins in the hand her late mother made 62 years two years ago were on display at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.

“When we drove by, I said we had to stop at the museum to see what we could find,” Benuen told CBC radio. Labrador morning.

Although she couldn’t find anything on the screen, emails and phone calls with staff helped her quickly locate the moccasins in the museum’s collection storage.

The center of the design is a star that connects to the footprints of a large bird and has two branches. (Germaine Benuen / Facebook)

“It was peaceful,” she said. “It was almost like… my mom was there for a second.”

Louisa Benuen, who died in 2000, was from the former Innu community of Davis Inlet, off the northern coast of Labrador. According to the museum, she was 28 when she made the moccasins in 1959, shortly before moving to North West River.

These moccasins are traditionally made from caribou skin and sewn by hand.

Continuing the tradition

Benueun said making the moccasins was a way for her mother to pass an indigenous tradition on to her children.

“She has always been a traditional person. She did not have a modern school education. She lived on the earth and she raised us on the earth,” Benuen said.

“She always made sure that we were able and able to provide our children with indigenous knowledge.”

When she was finally able to hold the moccasins her mother made so long ago, she felt connected to her on a deeper level.

It was peaceful … it was almost like … my mother was there for a second– Germaine Benuen

“I was honored and brought tears to my eyes.”

While her mother may have passed away, Louisa Benuen still lives through such traditions, her daughter said.

A step towards reconciliation

Since returning from her return trip, Benuen has hoped to carry on the indigenous traditions that had been passed down.

She said bringing cultural artifacts under Indigenous supervision is an important step towards reconciliation.

“I hope these moccasins will eventually be brought home as the Innu Nation works on the Sheshatshiu Cultural Center within the community., so my grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to see it. “

Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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