Herald Sun Article: Cowessess picture project preserving history

Pictures preserve a moment in time. Cowessess First Nation is striving to ensure that moments captured in the community’s past are not lost, by creating a digitized photo library.

When the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation gathering was held at the former site of the Marieval Residential School in 2021, Cowessess First Nation members had an opportunity to view photos of students who had attended the school. The enlarged pictures were arranged to create a visual timeline documenting the school’s history and this evoked deep emotions from those attending the gathering.

The photos were just a sample of what Eleanor Agecoutay had collected for a previous project while she was teaching at the Cowessess Community Education Centre that had replaced the former residential school. In 2005, the vice-principal asked Agecoutay to compile a PowerPoint presentation of historical photos to share with students. She tracked down pictures that were stored at the band office and worked with community members to identify individuals in the snapshots.

“I was fortunate that there were people around that knew some faces, so I put masking tape under the pictures and people went to town writing names down, then I would come home and record them,” the retired teacher explained to Grasslands News. “I also went and visited with some elders in the community – with the scanner and the laptop – and they were happy helping me with names and giving me some of their pictures.

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