A descendant of Chief Peguis is glad to see his faith being honoured and Bible restored as part of a Treaty 1 exhibit.
Kyle J. Mason is a public speaker, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and keeper and protector of Chief Peguis's Bibles. He says as a teenager he was given two Bibles to care for, keeping them in his nightstand wrapped in cloth.
"It was not until I started growing up and realized the family history and my connection to Chief Peguis I started understanding the significance of the Bibles," Mason says. "Chief Peguis was one of the first chiefs in western Canada to convert to Christianity. It has been a part of the Peguis community ever since and has been a part of my family ever since."
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As he learnt more about the significance of the Chief's Bible and its impact on Manitoba, he placed the Bible in a safe. While it did keep the Bibles safe, the years it sat untouched resulted in a musky scent and has some loose pages. Overall, they were in poor shape.
Years later as Mason was sitting at a table with two others at the Manitoba Museum, he told them about the Bibles and their condition.
"We were talking about these Bibles and we were talking about my family history. I said it is probably going to take a significant amount of money to restore them and have them fixed."
Those two people are Dr. Maureen Matthews, the overseer of a new gallery and an anonymous donor who since then paid to have the Bibles restored for Mason. He says "they smell great" and are now in the best shape possible.
Now, one of the Bibles, a New Testament used by Peguis is being displayed as part of an exhibit. This Bible is signed by Edward Prince, Peguis's grandson. The gallery is dedicated to the land and people of Treaty 1 in the new Prairies Gallery.
Mason is hopeful the Bible will spark conversations about the complex history between Indigenous people and Christianity.
Mason says many First Nations people, especially those from Peguis First Nation, are faithful Christians. Touching on the dark history of the Church and Indigenous people, Mason says it is important to honour and recognize how important faith is to people, and how the history has harmed others.
"Obviously Christianity, Canada, colonization, has been quite horrific when it comes to its treatment of Indigenous peoples, whether you look at the Residential schools or day schools, or the countless other negative racist and evil treatment of Indigenous peoples, it has been an extremely complex history between Indigenous peoples and Christianity," Mason says.
He says this complex relationship requires a lot of thinking and important conversation about what happened.
"I have personally come to the understanding that the teachings of Jesus are separate from the institutions and the people within the institutions that committed these atrocities. I hope the Bible can be a small part of that conversation of how somebody can be Indigenous and still be a follower of the teachings of Jesus."
Standing in front of the display case, Mason told his son that one day he would be the keeper and protector of Chief Peguis's Bible, something Mason says "his young man" was excited and proud about.
"My son is seven years old and he was very excited to see it. It has been causing conversations within the home in the last little while, and even as seven years old he is very excited about the family history and seeing it there," Mason says.
Mason visited the display with his father, residential school survivor Raymond Mason.
Chief Peguis's Bible will remain on display as part of the decade-long exhibit.