Working in partnership with the Îyârhe Nakoda peoples of the Stoney Nakoda Nations (SNN), this project asks: how can colonial era images support Indigenous resurgence? Our work begins with a collection of historical and contemporary mountain photographs. But this isn’t just any photographic collection. With over 120,000 historical photographs and more than 10,000 repeat images, the Mountain Legacy Project (MLP) has generated the largest reservoir of systematic, comprehensive, high-resolution mountain photographs in the world, at a time depth of a century and a half. The historic photographs reveal the interior and coastal mountainous regions of what is now western Canada (Yukon, NWT, Alberta, and British Columbia), including lands that make up the traditional and contemporary territories of dozens of First Nation, Métis, and settler communities. The repeat images show modifications to the landscape – both physical and cultural – created under past and ongoing colonial practices. Yet research on decolonizing photographic archives has not examined landscape imagery. This project addresses this gap while also developing novel techniques for analyzing colonial archives. We are grounding our work on the very lands that matter to the Îyârhe Nakoda. This is research that respects the land-as-teacher and the wisdom of scared places. It is intended as only a beginning, eventually leading to a wider network of collaboration with Indigenous communities across Canada.
This research is funded by the Canadian Mountain Network and a MITACS Postdoctoral Fellowship.