I’d like to begin by acknowledging that this assignment, Unceded Territory, was made on the traditional and ancestral territories of the Secwépemc First Nations and that these territories were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender.
Although my assignment began its journey as a documentation of historical buildings in my rural environment, it morphed into something far more complex than I had initially envisioned. Looking at the relatively young historical buildings (any building in Canada that is 80+ years old is deemed historical as we build with wood in this country) in Notch Hill, Sorrento and Blind Bay got me thinking about who was here before the first settlers came to this community. History tells us that the First Nations inhabited this region more than 10,000 years ago, but the first colonial settlers only came to this area in the 1860’s during the gold rush.
While it is relatively easy to find out details of the first colonial settlers, what do we really understand about the latent history of the First Nations people and their culture? Their history is mainly an oral one – a collective memory passed down to each generation. The language that the Secwépemc speak (Secwepemctsín) is endangered as the only mother-tongue speakers are over the age of 65 and the 2016 census statistics report a population of only 1, 290 people. The system of forcibly removing children aged 4 – 15 from their families and placing them in residential schools, prohibiting them to practise their own culture, tradition and language, in an attempt to assimilate the First Nations into Western society, did untold damage to the First Nations way of life. The residential school system ran from the 1870’s and the last school closed in 1996.
Their land was dispossessed – no official treaty was signed to purchase it, neither was it surrendered, nor was it won in any war. King George III signed a Royal Proclamation indeclaring that all unceded and unsold territory would be reserved to the First Nations people. This proclamation to date was never rescinded.
I want to challenge the viewer to look at history (especially colonial history) in a new way. What has been embodied? How has local knowledge changed? What makes up the social history of The Place? By overlaying the Secwépemc figures and Secwepemctsín on Western historical buildings I hope to create a cross-cultural commentary on the complexity of history by presenting two distinct realities in parallel. I do realise that I am in no position to offer a commentary as an insider to the First Nations history and culture, in this respect I am the Other, but instead I offer this work as a token of respect and reconciliation.
This is a draft layout for my book. The assignment is best viewed in book format, as the verso page informs the recto page. Once I’ve had feedback from my tutor I will make any recommended changes and create a Blurb copy. The first PDF contains the front and back cover, while the second PDF contains the body of the book. The second PDF should be viewed in Adobe Acrobat by going to View -> Page Display -> Two-Up Continuous. The pages will then display as a two page spread.
For the purposes of the assignment, though I am also uploading the images of all the recto pages below.
UPDATE 9 MAY, 2020: I have created a Blurb copy of the book and that can be accessed by this link: https://www.blurb.ca/bookstore/invited/8681041/688acfce3bfe7ca73f1f6ec00a2f2b2f2f6e8781.
Inspiration and Evaluation
My main inspiration for this project came from the work of Christos Dikeakos, Edith Roux and William Christenberry. Dikeakos is a Canadian photographer, fellow student with Jeff Wall and is interested in the identity and culture of the First Nations people. Roux’s work revolves around socio-political issues, while Christenberry has documented the American South and concentrates his work on issues of time, place and memory.
Initially I thought that I would present my set of images in B&W because I felt that the monochromatic treatment blended the collages better – the different components became more integrated. In fact it was rather difficult to see that they were collages. However, after adding the textual overlay I found myself leaning more towards a colour presentation. But after a few peer hangouts I was straddling the fence between B&W and colour again. It was only after a conversation with a fellow student that I decided to go with my gut instinct and present the images in colour. I was of the opinion that by removing the colour, it felt as if the present was being stripped away to merge with the past. And this is not what I wanted. I wanted the past and the present to stand separately in the images. While my images can probably stand alone, they are definitely stronger when viewed in the book along side the symbolic representations of the Secwepemcstin words and their cultural connotation, allowing the duality of the sign in both symbolic and iconic form to inform the viewer.
I know I am short one image for this assignment, but unfortunately I needed to reshoot some locations and the Canadian winter has now set in rendering a snowed-in landscape. As soon as the weather conditions are favourable (i.e. when the snow melts, I’ll go and reshoot and add the last image in and then create the Blurb book.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.
I have gone outside my comfort zone with this assignment, learning new Photoshop skills, and also relearning forgotten ones as I haven’t used Photoshop in any great manner since 2000. I normally use LightRoom for my post-processing work. From layering to masking to collaging and blending, I have rediscovered how much hard work is involved in digital darkroom work. As a continuation from Assignment 2, I have again experimented with B&W extensively, before deciding not to go down that route. I also tried and varied my focal distances in photographing the various historical buildings. I am quite pleased with the final result.
Quality of Outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, with discernment. Conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.
I did a tremendous amount of research, looking for suitable images of the Secwépemc First Nations people, information on their language and culture. I presented my WIPs to the following hangouts: Hangout with Fellow Student Anna; ROW – 8/12/2019; Documentary – 21/11/2019; ROW – 3/11/2019 and my comments are recorded on those blog postings. Although perhaps my ideas did not translate well verbally in the hangouts over to my fellow students, I feel I have now honed my concept in a coherent manner.
Demonstration of Creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.
This assignment has most definitely been outside my comfort zone, but I feel that I have been imaginative in narrating my story. I most assuredly have experimented in the various ways of presenting the images, as well as with the book layout. As I mention below in more detail, I am beginning to see and make connections with my past work and I think this is feeding into my personal voice (I really hope so!).
My initial plans can be seen on the the following posts:
- Initial idea for Assignment 3 – 4/10/2019
- Some experimenting with Photoshop – 11/11/2019
- Some more experimenting (and research points) – 21 11/2019
- Index and more experimenting – 22/11/2019
- Thoughts and more experiments – 30/11/2019
- Tying up loose ends – 1/12/2019
Research related to this assignment:
Context: Reflection, research (evidenced in learning logs). Critical thinking (evidenced in critical review).
As mentioned above I looked at the work work of Christos Dikeakos, Edith Roux and William Christenberry, as well as tutor suggested viewing of fellow students work. Following the advice of my tutor, I have been more proactive in verbalising my thought process in my planning posts, as well as in my weekly check in posts (15 November 2019, 22 November 2019, 8 December 2019). By doing this I find I am questioning my work more, and thinking more deeply about connotations, how things work together and so on. I can now see that this questioning/talking it through process actually lets my work take its own direction and is less prescriptive. I’m actually quite excited by this process as I can see some connections being made with work in previous modules and my current work. This current assignment has almost become an extension of my Landscape A3 Spaces to Places where I am now exploring places, but showing an awareness of First Nations history and culture which underlies those places that I photographed during that assignment.
Apart from course work, I have been to the following exhibitions:
I have also done some documentary research:
I have taken part in the following hangouts:
- Hangout with fellow student Anna
- Rest of World Hangout – 8/12/2019
- Documentary Hangout – 21/11/2019
- Tutor Led Hangout (Andrea Norrington) – Learning Logs
- Rest of the World Hangout – 3/11/2019
- Documentary Hangout – 17/10/2019
- Rest of the World Hangout – 6/10/2019
Some other activities that have also kept me busy:
- Drawing and Note taking
- University of Groningen – Improving Study Techniques MOOC
- Tedx Talk – John Paul Caponigro
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Figure 1. Item D-07823 – ‘Siwash Madonna’; a First Nations woman and child on the beach. (s.d.) At: https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/siwash-madonna-first-nations-woman-and-child-on-beach (Accessed on 20 November 2019)
Figure 2. Family Portrait | Secwepemc History: The First 220 Years of Contact. (1899) At: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_stories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000350&hs=0&rd=81614 (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 3. Male – Traditional Clothing | Secwepemc History: The First 220 Years of Contact. (1900) At: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_stories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000350&hs=0&rd=81606 (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 4. A Savonna Woman | Secwepemc History: The First 220 Years of Contact. (1880) At: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_stories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000350&hs=0&rd=81638 (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 5. Item E-00993 – A First Nations woman; Alaska. (s.d.) At: https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/first-nations-woman-alaska (Accessed on 21 November 2019)
Figure 6. Item A-06132 – ‘Bob’ – a Medicine-man of Yu-ka-guse Chilliwack B.C. who claimed when a boy – 16 yrs old – to have seen Simon Fraser on his first trip down the river – 1808- at a great gathering of Indians at the mount of Harrison River | BC Archives. (1896) At: https://search-bcarchives.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/yu-ka-guse-medicine-man-known-as-bob-claimed-to-have-seen-simon-fraser-in-1808-when-bob-was-16-years-old (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 7. Adam Bennett | Secwepemc History: The First 220 Years of Contact. (1900) At: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_stories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000350&hs=0&rd=81699 (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 8. Racing on the Shuswap River | Secwepemc History: The First 220 Years of Contact. (1920) At: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_stories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000350&hs=0&rd=81671 (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
Figure 9. Consolidated Stationery Company. (1907) English: Original caption: ‘The Horn Society of Alberta Indians.’ At: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Horn_Society_of_Alberta_Indians_(HS85-10-18747).jpg (Accessed on 12 December 2019)
All symbols: Legends and Symbology – Lil’wat Cultural Centre (s.d.) At: https://shop.slcc.ca/legends-symbology/ (Accessed 12/12/2019).