Photo exhibit celebrates Dene people’s life ‘On the Land’ in NWT

Elder Gabe Chicot , Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation. Photo courtesy: On the Land.
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A new photo exhibit opens in Yellowknife Monday, showcasing Dene and First Nation’s people’s lifestyles and cultures in protected areas throughout the NWT.

Kane has been working on this project since October 2015.

On the Land is an exhibit by Yellowknife-based photojournalist Pat Kane, and will feature 35 photographs from around the territory.

Kane spent almost a year traveling to areas near Kakisa, Lutselk’e, the Jean Marie River, and along the Mackenzie River, documenting the lives of the people who live there.

“They’re spiritual areas for the communities outside of Yellowknife,” Kane told Moose FM.

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The exhibit ‘dispels the myth that nobody lives here’ according to his website.

“They’re places where people harvest food, it’s a source of water, they’re travel roots, they’re historically significant, they’re culturally significant and they’re places where people gather to this day and reconnect with each other.”

On the Land was a partnership between Kane and Tides Canada, a Canadian environment and conservation organization with an office in Yellowknife.

Through this exhibit, Kane said he wanted to capture people on the land and show why he believes these protected areas are important places to conserve.

“Outside of a strictly environmental sense, they’re culturally important to the people [there],” he said.

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“It’s important to get the word out outside of the Protected Area Strategy, and showcase that to the general public.”

Originally from Ontario, Kan has been a documentary photographer in the territory’s capital for 10 years.

Photo courtesy: On the Land.

He calls himself a guest to the North, and hopes his ‘outsider point of view’ helps people understand the cultural and historical significance of protected areas.

“For me, the most that I’ve taken from [this project] is that these places are not just protected areas,” Kane said.

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“They’re very culturally and historically significant for the people outside of Yellowknife and in the communities.”

Through On the Land, Kane says he hopes to inspire people to engage more with the First Nation’s and Dene communities of the North, and to go explore.

“Drive down to Behchoko and go to a hand game tournament, or go to Kakisa and don’t just go to the campground, go into town and chat with the locals there,” he said.

“They want to share their stories with you, and I think it’s important for people who are not originally from here or who only live in Yellowknife to engage with the broader population to learn and have a dialogue of reconciliation, and get to know each other’s differences. I think we’ll be a lot better off for that.”

The photo exhibit will be on display at the legislative assembly starting Monday until the end of January.

Project ‘lives online’

35 photographs will appear at the exhibit, but they’re not all that came out of this project.

The exhibit ‘lives online ’ as part of a bigger multi-media project Kane released that includes videos, interviews with locals, and a compilation of stories from the communities he visited.

Photo courtesy: On the Land.

Kane recalls one of his favourite stories he documented of a 14-year-old boy in Tathlina Lake, south of Kakisa.

“He took down a moose like no problem, first shot,” Kane said.

“He’s a kid and he knows how to hunt, he knows how to drive a boat, and he knows how to fix things and he chops wood and contributes.

“It was neat to see first of all the passing down of knowledge from elders to the youth, but also just to see how confident and how proficient these young kids are with being out on the land.”

You can find Kane’s full project here.

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