In November 2005, I was invited to participate in the "Artist Statement: Artistic Inquiry and the Role of the Artist in Academe" workshop/symposium co-organized by Will Garrett-Petts and Rachel Nash of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC, Canada.
The "Artist Statement" workshop/symposium was part a five-year research program supported by a Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The program focused on how the "artists-as-researchers" model extends and complicates the practice of interdisciplinary research and collaborative practices.
On November 26, I delivered a presentation titled "Imaging Place; an artistic Inquiry", and spent November 27 producing the initial fieldwork media for the "Imaging British Columbia" project.
With Weyerhaeuser, a U.S. softwood lumber plant, as a backdrop, Michael Jarrett and other "Artists Statement" participants move through various plant operations drawing correlations between wood pulp and the history of writing.
Danyel Ferrari: "I was wondering what the emotional loss was of experiencing a place only visually, and then I remembered that I experience everywhere I ever go as though it was a picture first. And thats really when I know how to feel with it or how to think it."
Michael Jarrett: "At a certain point, people start writing in codexes, books whith leaves. And books become random access machines instead of these linear big log-like, scroll-like narratives. A great example is the encyclopedia, the telephone book, and now with the internet, we end up thinking in terms of this random access pattern. It's really amazing to see the birth of writing in front of us, from leaves, to pulp, to bark, to big piles of amazing logs here."
Michael Jarrett: "Georgia and I were talking about Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, and what is it? People in stalker, they get what their innermost need is met in the zone..."
Michael Jarrett: "Right and that's being tested, do you really want to get what you want."
Shawn Berney: "It's a matter of degree. We are always consuming, but no other time in history, have we consumed at the level we are today."
In the spring of 2006, Will Garrett-Petts invited me back to Kamloops to deliver a public lecture, conduct a workshop sessions with CURA researchers and to further develop the "Imaging British Columbia" project as a pilot project for CURA.
During this stay in Kamloops, I worked with the local Secwepemc (Shuswap) people to produce a new phase of the "Imaging British Columbia" project that focuses on the stories of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The school was created in 1893 by the Canadian government in cooperation with Roman and Protestant churches to "Christianize and civilizes" the Secwepemc.
Over four generation of Secwepemc children were taken from their parents and forced to attend the School. These children were isolated from their traditional culture and indoctrinated in Catholic religious teachings. Although many of the children did not speak English, they were forbidden to speak Secwpemctsin and were severely punished when they did. The individuals I worked with referred to this practice as strapping, where the children would be hit across the forearms, or elsewhere, with large leather straps. The irony was, that the children themselves were forced to make the straps. The legacy of the Kamloops Indian Residential School has been devastating for the Secwepemc. Shame of the Secwepemc culture and language was deeply instilled in the children. The effects include all manner of personal, social, cultural, and spiritual dysfunction. The Secwpemctsin language was nearly lost.
Since 1978 the Kamloops Indian Band has run the facility, which now houses a variety of Band organization. The word Kamloops is the English translation of the Secwepemc word Tk'emlups, meaning 'confluence,' and for centuries has been a center of the Secwepemc culture. Bands of first nations people from across British Columbia are once again turning to the Secwepemc for leadership. They conduct a well-established project to preserve and restore the Secwpemctsin language and the school they run is one of the best in the state.
At one time the Secwepemc people occupied one large traditional territory covering approximately 145,000 square kilometers. The Kamloops Reserve land base was established in 1862 under the direction of then Governor James Douglas. It included an area approximately 26 miles east of the North Thompson River by 26 miles north of the South Thompson River, adjacent to the City of Kamloops. Although the Secwepemc never signed away their rights to this land, in subsequent years the reserve was reduced in size to around 7 by 7 miles today. In 1988 the Kamloops Indian Band filed a claim to the original Douglas Reserve. In 2001 the Canadian Government rejected the claim. The Kamloops Indian Band is currently preparing to file a new claim under the Douglas Reserve Initiative at Residential School.