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Old 06-06-2005, 01:57 PM   #1
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Woodland Centre Says Goodbye To Its Renaissance Man

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This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
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FROM: THE BRANTFORD EXPOSITOR NEWSPAPER

http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/web...ntentid=111973
&catname=Local+News&classif=News+%2D+Local

Woodland Centre Says Goodbye To Its Renaissance Man

By Elizabeth Yates, Expositor Staff
Local News - Friday, June 03, 2005 @ 01:00

It's no surprise that the man who opened doors for aboriginals in government
and the arts should be leaving his own office door ajar after retiring from
the Woodland Cultural Centre.

Tom Hill will be feted at a private reception today, his last day on the job
as curator at Woodland's museum.

He leaves after a remarkable 23-year career that has made him internationally
renowned as an expert and promoter of First Nations art. His acumen, coupled
with an affable personality, has bridged the sometimes uneasy divide between
natives and non-natives.

The 62-year-old is a keen historian, who can provide just about any fact one
needs to know about the Six Nations, as well as broader native issues.

He's also a keen quipster, ready with a one-liner to lighten a tense moment
or make a happy occasion even funnier.

The past two decades have teen fulfilling for the man who became Canada's
first native curator.

"I feel it has been a great 23 years," Hill said. "I've no complaints. But
now I'm going to go rest a while."

Hill's absence from Woodland, which he has helped develop into a resource
respected across North America and beyond, seems unimaginable to co-workers.

"I don't want to think about it," said Judy Harris, who has worked with Hill
since 1988 as assistant curator and museum registrar.
"He will leave a big void."

"He's a great boss," she said. "He's just like one of the guys. He can sit
around here and joke and laugh and just have fun, and yet he can go and speak to
the Queen or meet the Governor General."

Amos Key, who has shared 21 years with Hill at the Mohawk Street facility,
gives an uncertain smile when asked about the prospect of the curator's
departure.

"You just don't believe it's happening," said Key, who is director of
languages at Woodland and an important figure in Canada's world of aboriginal
culture.

Key's path to prominence - sitting on government task forces and arts groups -
was originally blazed by Hill.

Hill, a Six Nations Seneca, began his career as a civil servant after
studying art in university, then becoming the first aboriginal intern at the National
Gallery of Canada.

He spent 10 years as director of cultural development with the Department of
Indian and Northern Affairs m Ottawa. He then moved to the Secretary of
State's office as native policy advisor. Years spent shaping federal and provincial
policy on native arts were marred by ugly incidents of racism and, intrigued
by the idea of grassroots activism, he moved home to Woodland in 1982 - taking
a cut of more than half his government salary.

Aside from a heart attack a few years ago. Hill's health is fine. But it's
getting harder to keep up the pace at work, which entails frequent travel.

"And there's a lot of young curators chomping at the bit who can come in here
and do a much better job than I can."

That seems doubtful, given the dedication, ambition and intellect which were
honoured in 2004 with a $15,000 Governor General arts award - one of many
accolades over a long career.

Through means ranging from setting public policy to staging controversial art
exhibitions, writing scholarly discourse or speaking at high-level
conferences, Hill has gained respect for First Nations art and artists. And he has
created an environment fostering fresh opportunities for successors.

"He has opened up the doors for a lot of us to come after and say, 'We're
here,'" said Key. "Now, I can go through that door and not have to convince
anyone I should be there."

"That's a tribute to his personality. That's his moral legacy."

Professionally, Hill is proud of many noteworthy exhibits staged at Woodland,
and singles out work on a national task force as particularly rewarding. The
group, which operated from 1989-93, developed policy on the treatment of
native artifacts in museums and also negotiated the repatriation of certain sacred
objects.

Despite deciding to retire, the multi-tasking curator has no intention of
actually leaving the centre for good - or of getting too relaxed.

He has already committed to several volunteer projects at Woodland and is
entertaining some interesting proposals, such as writing a catalogue of works by
famed artist Norval Morrisseau, helping create a contemporary native art
gallery in Vancouver and doing some contracts for the Smithsonian Institute.

There will be time to work on his own art, finish a play started a few years
ago, and write a long-promised novel. "I won't be going out to pasture."

He'll also enjoy more time as a homebody, balancing the heavy demands of wife
Roberta Jamieson's job as CEO of the National Aboriginal Achievement
Foundation. And, of course, a certain toddler named Daisy makes delightful demands on
a grandfather's time.

As to rumours that Jamieson is in line to become Canada's next Governor
General, "who knows?" mused her husband.

"It may be a possibility. If that's what she wants, I'd certainly support
her. But I don't know if I'd make a very good consort," he joked.

Woodland is in the process of recruiting a new curator. Harris will fill in
as acting curator until the post is filled.
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