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Hay River Heritage Centre celebrates 20th anniversary of opening

On Aug. 23, at the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Hay River Heritage Centre, Deputy Mayor Robert Bouchard, right, presented the Hay River Museum Society with a plaque featuring the 1999 town bylaw designating the Hudson's Bay Company building as an historical site. Accepting the plaque are Vicky Latour, left, one of the founders of the heritage centre, and Tom Lakusta, chair of the Hay River Museum Society.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The Hay River Heritage Centre has celebrated 20 years of preserving history for the community.

It was two decades ago – Aug. 26, 2000 – that the centre first opened its doors to the public in a former Hudson's Bay store in Old Town.

That significant event was remembered with speeches and tours on Aug. 23.

Vicky Latour, one of the founders of the heritage centre, said the anniversary was a special day for everyone involved in the Hay River Museum Society.

"I do look with a certain satisfaction at what has been through dedication and hard work accomplished in these 20 past years," said Latour, a former co-chair of the society and now a board member.

Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) Minister R.J. Simpson, also the MLA for Hay River North where the heritage centre is located, thanked the founders for their foresight in creating the museum.

Simpson noted this is a time when it seems that any information is available online, but that is not quite true when it comes to the history of Hay River.

"There's a lot of information about Hay River that never got put online, but only exists with the elders and it only exists in this building here," he said. "So this is more than just a place for visitors to come, more than just a place to come and have tea. This is the history of the people of Hay River."

Congratulations and thanks were also expressed by K'atlodeeche First Nation Chief April Martel, Deputy Mayor Robert Bouchard and Dr. Sarah Carr-Locke, the director of culture and heritage for ECE and the director of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

Lakusta thanked everyone involved in the Hay River Heritage Centre over the years – the founders, society board members, staff, volunteers, financial supporters and others.

The society chair also thanked those people who donated artifacts to the museum.

"Pretty much everything you see here today, either inside the museum or outside on the grounds, has been donated over the years by someone or other," he said. "Without the collection, without the artifacts we've acquired to put on display, there are no exhibits available, no stories to tell."

The old Hudson's Bay store which houses the heritage centre was built in 1947 on what is now the Hay River Reserve. It was moved in 1951 to its current site on Vale Island, where it operated as a store until the mid-1960s.