Brent Chudiak One of the ‘knowledge keepers’ featured in an exhibition in the Montebello Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village, Gerry Thomas gathers birchbark to make and sell traditional First Nations items and teaches his craft to students in several area schools A photography exhibition of “Knowledge Keepers” from local Shuswap bands and the Métis Association is on display at the Montebello Museum until Sept. 15.-Image credit: Brent Chudiak

Wisdom in words passed down

Faces of local knowledge keepers on display at Montebello Museum

By Leah Blain

Observer contributor

As Brent Chudiak glances around at the photos at the Montebello Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village, he says he can’t pick out his favourite.

“I love them all. I’ve been doing photography for almost 50 years and teaching it for 26 and I think these are the best 18 pictures I’ve ever taken. There’s something magical with these people.”

The people he is referring to are the ‘knowledge keepers’ from local Shuswap bands and the Métis Association. Chudiak’s students came up with the idea as they discussed the call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“We made connections with the bands and invited the knowledge keepers to an afternoon tea at Sullivan Campus. We presented them with the idea. At first they were asking, ‘Why do I have to go to the school?’ But we’re creating that bridge, making them feel comfortable and welcome in our schools. That’s the real purpose of the project, to make them feel welcome.”

The photo shoots were done over the next few weeks. It was a group effort explains Chudiak because lighting is the important factor and the students helped set everything up.

“I used Yousuf Karsh’s technique. He’s my idol. He’s probably the most famous portrait photographer in the world. He photographed Fidel Castro, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill… His lighting techniques are very strong and I wanted to use a technique that showed every pore, mole and blemish – it’s them. We’re not hiding anything.”

The results are stunning as their personalities seem to take command of the room by their presence.

As Chudiak goes from picture to picture he talks a little about the various photos.

“They say the eyes are the window of the soul, but in Karsh’s work the hands are the pictures of the soul. I always try to put hands into the picture.”

Alongside the pictures are the knowledge keepers’ advice to graduating students. John Sayer of the Métis Association is pictured holding a traditional pipe, which was used as a measurement (e.g. the length of time it takes for one pipe smoke). His advice to grads: “Your life is going to change many times. Who you are now doesn’t mean who you are going to be.”

Ethel Thomas, a knowledge keeper of the Splatsin Band, shares her pearls of wisdom: “Words are like toothpaste – once it’s out, you can’t put it back. Speak from the heart not the head. Be careful what you say because words can hurt.”

“Share your knowledge with not only those who know you, but also those who need it,” says Gerry Thomas of the Neskonlith Band. “Sharing what you know will help our culture continue. Don’t be afraid to put your hand out to help others.”

The collection will continue to hang in the gallery at the Montebello Museum until Sept. 15 Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Just Posted

B.C. man convicted in fatal boat crash awaiting appeal date

Leon Reinbrecht maintains rights breached by delays

JoeAnna’s House fundraising campaign reaches $4.5 million

Offering ‘home away from home’ for families of KGH patients

Food truck options to expand in Salmon Arm

City council votes in new food truck regulations

New commercial development coming to council

Liquor outlet and 60-seat restaurant among uses proposed by applicant

Kelowna West byelection called for Feb. 14

Four candidate race to replace departed former B.C. premier Christy Clark

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

KIJHL prospects shine in showcase game

Top players for Kootenay and Okanagan conferences put best skate forward.

Challenge issued to ‘Read for 15’

Regional district libraries to compete by asking patrons to read for 15 minutes on Jan. 26 and 27.

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Public asked to report bat sightings

White nose syndrome leads to bats flying in winter or death.

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

Most Read