• Sweat Lodge

    Featured Video Play Icon

    Louise: I remember, I took a group of women from Port Simpson, and we built a sweat lodge from scratch. Went in the bush, got the logs and we covered it all with blankets, and that was my first experience in the sweat lodge.

    Louis: Y’know you go into the sweat lodge, and everyone sits on reeds on the ground, and then there’s a pit where these hot rocks are. And they close the—

    Louise: The flap.
    Continue reading “Sweat Lodge”

  • Priestly

    On a visit to the home for retired Oblate priests I felt like I was in a 1950s motel. Everything was clean but old, even the people. The living room was filled with vases of fresh-cut lilacs and tulips and old men wearing cardigans. Old photographs had been hung on the living room wall as if for a gallery or museum exhibition. I peered at them closely one after another and felt a pang in my gut and a thick, slow fog in my head. It took some time to realize their recurring subject: these were photographs of priests standing beside “Indians.” Priests with Indian children. Priests with Indian families. My baby daughter was strapped onto my chest in a BabyBjörn. It was very hot in that room. I looked around at the old men and back at the photographs and decided to go outside and walk in the garden with my baby girl.

  • Hobbes

    My wife and I arrived in Edmonton in the winter of 1991. I was freelancing as a photographer for the Edmonton Sun when I met the actor Ben Cardinal, who had just returned after a movie stint in Russia. We discovered that we shared a basic knowledge of Russian, a fondness for potatoes and the experience of growing up in families destroyed by alcohol. That was the year that Chief Justice Allan McEachern released his judgment against Delgamuukw and quoted Thomas Hobbes’s words, “nasty, brutish and short,” in relation to Indigenous life. In our drunk and sober conversations inspired by McEachern’s verdict, Ben Cardinal and I developed a tradition of referring to ourselves as f–king Indian and f–king settler. Some years later, after Ben and I and our partners moved to Vancouver, I discovered a little book by Daniel Francis called Copying People. Inside is a photograph taken in the late 19th century depicting two Aboriginal elders sitting on a wooden bench in some remote coastal location. The caption says that they are believed to be close to 100 years old and they are both blind. In this picture they are indeed very old and they look very gentle.

  • Bus Stop

    I was having a smoke waiting for my bus and a man in his late forties asked me for a cigarette. He told me his name is Craig, he had just got out of jail and he is a redneck. He pulled out a silver Zippo and showed me the engravings, “white pride.” Craig said, “I would have never come up and asked for a smoke from an Asian” and gestured at me. He told me he doesn’t believe in interracial mingling and found Asian people standoffish and unapproachable. He said, “The only reason I stopped to ask you for a smoke is because earlier today I was chatting with my buddy and his friend, Tan, Tuan or something. He is Vietnamese and he took me to his brother’s restaurant and gave me two free spring rolls! And I thought, hey why not ask you for a smoke.” My bus pulled up and as I walked towards my bus Craig yelled, “I’ll never forget today!”

  • Birthright

    In 1983 I returned to Pangnirtung where I was born in 1947 and stayed for a month with the daughter of the Inuit family who had worked for my parents. I went over to the fish and game office and bought a fishing licence for $10 and when my friend learned that I had had to pay for it she became upset and stormed back over the hill to demand that I be given the licence for free, as I had been born in Pangnirtung and was therefore entitled to the rights of native Pangnirtungmiut. To my relief, she was unable to convince the warden. But then I was unable to explain to her why the warden was, in my view, correct.

  • Prejudice Reversed

    Featured Video Play Icon

    I came home one day from school and told my mother that we had show and tell and I told them I was aboriginal and that my uncle was a hereditary chief Continue reading “Prejudice Reversed”