After three weeks on the road, exploring northern British Columbia and a little of Alberta, what sticks in my mind is not so much the beauty in the landscape, although it was abundant, but the beauty in the people. Chance encounters along the way led to these photos and stories of some of the beautiful people of our province.

 

An aboriginal woman in Fort St. James has stories of personal success.

Nicole: A leader in her community.

Nicole is a Dene woman living in Fort St. James, 60 km north of Vanderhoof. Nicole is a bright shining light in her community. After falling into the trap of alcohol and drugs, she proudly told us she has been clean for 15 years. Now, her mission is to help young people in her community avoid the same trap. She leads a group of 23 promising youth, helping them find a positive lifestyle with constructive alternatives to the despair of drugs. Sadly, she does this pretty much on her own with little support from her own community of elders.

 

An aboriginal fisherman in Moricetown, BC., with stories that cross three generations.

Fabian: Fishing for the generations.

Fabian lives in Moricetown, which is just a little way down the Bulkley River from Smithers. The river flows by Moricetown with tremendous force and power because the banks come together here to create a deep and narrow canyon. Fabian fishes the river almost every day, putting away salmon for his family and community. As Fabian fished, his father watched from the riverbank while he looked after his 4-year-old grandson. All three generations of Fabian’s family were born and raised in Moricetown and all of them are deeply connected to the run of salmon.

 

Aboriginal woman, proud of her Tahlten heritage

Nancy: Dancing for her culture.

Not far south of the Yukon border on Highway 37 is a turnoff to Telegraph Creek. It’s 2.5 hours on a steep (20%) dirt road through the Stikine River canyon to the tiny village which is surrounded by the Tahlten First Nation. We were warmly received by everyone we met there and Nancy was no exception. We encountered her twice, fishing on the the river with her husband. The board in the image that holds the freshly caught fish has her name clearly marked on it, a sign to all the locals that this is her traditional fishing spot. Nancy had many stories to share about the people and wildlife in the area. When I asked her if I could take her picture, she quickly grabbed the sticks in her hand, which she uses when she dances for her people. Nancy is proud of her Tahlten heritage and eager to share it with others.

 

Aboriginal motorcyclist and feministJoan: Freedom for her people.

I met Joan Jack in a tiny, roadside grill at Muncho Lake in northern BC. She was enroute to Niagara Falls from Atlin, BC on her motorcycle to attend the Assembly of First Nations. Joan’s enthusiasm was contagious as she told bits of her personal story. When she came to the realization that spousal abuse did not have to be part of her destiny, it stopped. “I was freed by this oppression as soon as I knew I could say no.”

I began to realize that the tattoo on her arm, ‘Freedom’, had deep significance for her.

Now, as an indigenous feminist lawyer, Joan’s mission is to bring freedom to her people. The Indian Act, written generations ago, “contributes to the oppression of my people”. There is, and needs to be, political and cultural change and her ride to Niagara is a step on the way.

“I love my life!” Joan says. Fulfilling her mission is a big part of why she feels that way.

Stop the Site C Dam

Poul & Esther: In a battle they don’t want.

Poul and Esther Pederson are ranchers, living on an acreage on the banks of the Peace River, in Fort St. John. Behind them is the construction site of the controversial Site C Dam. The dam will flood the valley and cause the river banks to erode, destabilizing their land, making their home unusable. The dam will also destroy farmland that could provide fruits and vegetables to the Peace River region as well as the Yukon. The government pushes ahead with the biggest mega project in our history even though there is no evidence that we need the power it will generate. For more information about this project watch Disturbing the Peace.

For Photographers:

Each person photographed above was a stranger to me. But what happened before the shot with every one was lots of conversation. I was genuinely interested in their story and enjoyed talking with them. As we spoke, I always had, in the back of my mind, thoughts about how to photograph the person, lighting, location, pose, etc. In the case of Nicole (at the top), we had beautiful light coming in from windows on both sides of her. When she talked with us, she leaned her elbow on the counter and I knew I wanted that. But I waited for the opportunity and when I asked her, she smiled and readily agreed.

Each of the people above readily agreed to having their photos taken because, I suppose, they recognized my genuine interest in their story. I could have tried to grab a shot without their permission but that would have felt like a violation. Instead, I left each encounter with a positive connection, an insight into their life and a collaborative photograph with their permission to share. And I’m thankful to each person.

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