Back in March, a permanent exhibit devoted to Indigenous teachings and stories on child-rearing practices opened in the Creative Kids Museum at Telus Spark. Visitors to The Moss Bag Project learn how moss bags keep babies snugly wrapped in a warm, womb-like environment, and hear Elders sharing traditional teachings or stories, while mothers and Indigenous parents can use the space to share, too.
The exhibit is a collaboration between Spark and The Moss Bag Project (TMBP), a non-profit founded by Indigenous education and organizational consultant (and a member of Avenue’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2022) Jessie Fiddler-Kiss.
TMBP supports Indigenous mothers and Two-Spirit parents through creating and sharing moss bags and by providing scholarships. TMBP also offers educational sessions about traditional parenting.
With the exhibit, all visitors are welcome to experience this traditional way of knowing. “What we have set up there together is a space for moms and children to interact with moss bags and learn what [they] are and how they are used from an Indigenous perspective, because sometimes when things are presented about us without actually understanding the teachings, it doesn’t always align because our paradigms are so different,” Fiddler-Kiss says.
The Moss Bag Project is in line with Telus Spark’s goal to bring more Indigenous voices and stories into its programming, but it also demonstrates an innovative approach to learning at Calgary’s premier science-education institution. “I don’t know of any other science centre in Canada that is talking about this particular facet of Indigenous sciences,” says Zack Anderson, Spark’s director of group experiences.
“As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [Calls to Action], we’re all tasked with doing our part to take our reconciliation journey,” Anderson says. “So, Spark has undertaken that work and started that process. [The Moss Bag Project exhibit] is part of that.” Western science is one way of knowing, he adds, but it’s not the only way. “It’s really important to us at Spark, because we are located on the traditional lands of Niitsítapi (Blackfoot Confederacy), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, the Îethka Nakoda First Nation and Métis Nation of Alberta Region III, to be able to share these contexts.”
Fittingly, the process of bringing the exhibit to life did not follow a path typical of a Western science display. Spark reached out to TMBP with Indigenous protocol, offering kindness and reciprocity. That step of being invited in, in a way that was familiar, resonated with Fiddler-Kiss, who is a member of Métis Nation Region III. “Not to have to come in and teach first about what we need before we even begin, it feels welcoming,” she says.
For more information about The Moss Bag Project exhibit, visit sparkscience.ca/indigenous-ways-of-knowing-science/moss-bag-project