POW WOW uses sound and photos to bring the past to life and give voice to our future.
Next month, I get to see one of my biggest dreams as a photographer take centre stage in the waking world.
On October 5th, I’ll be debuting POW WOW, an immersive photography experience presented at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. Visitors will find themselves surrounded by the native elders of our community through photos, traditional songs, and clips of wisdom imparted by these dear teachers.
Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with 30 indigenous elders from approximately 10 communities in this region, to hear about their life stories and to take their photos. These are elders who have impacted their community in incredible ways. They’ve taught their culture and language to younger generations. They’ve passed along priceless traditional survival skills like hunting and building and how to find medicine in nature. They understand how to draw strength from their connection to the land, trees and nature. This is real strength, a strength that allowed them to overcome diseases and terrible weather along with man-made travesties like poverty and residential schools. They shared this all with me, and I’m honoured to help their voices carry into the future through this exhibition.
It’s so critical that we keep our connection with the older generation. As these elders leave this life behind, they take with them all that traditional teaching and knowledge with them. I feel like it’s a social responsibility to carry this knowledge forward- for my generation, for those above me and below me too. In fact, one of the elders profiled in the exhibition, Clarence Mineault, recently passed away from cancer. I’m so happy I got to talk to him last year and take his photo. He and I had some laughs while he participated in his first selfie with me.
I find that the generations coming up are not really engaged in and have not embraced what the old ways are about. I also noticed that there are various practices and opinions in our communities between the ‘modern’ way of life with cell phones and digital media and the traditional lifestyle of hunting, respecting the land, and nurturing its people. I tried to merge these two things back together through POW WOW.
Soon after I bought my first professional SLR camera when I was 17 years old, I became absolutely passionate about portraiture and people, and I still am today. As a photographer, a medium and an intuitive, the first that I can do is look into somebody’s eyes and begin to see who they are as a person. It’s really powerful. So when somebody gives you permission to look that closely at them and photograph them, it’s a real honour.
I’d like to thank my cousin, mentor, POW WOW co-creator Theresa Gladue for connecting me to these Indigenous communities. Not only is she encouraging and an amazing woman in her own right, Theresa took me to meet many of these elders, and brought me to communities I would never been able to get to otherwise. She’s also an event mastermind, and has invited exceptional Indigenous talent including jiggers, drummers, and dancers to perform during the POW WOW reception on October 5th.
I invite you to join us at this reception-it’s an afternoon not to be missed! But if you do have to miss it, you can check out POW WOW any time between October 1 and November 2 at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. To find out more, get connected here.