Ethics

Truth and Reconciliation and Humility

Three years ago, I sat with a Secwepemc elder and a couple young Secwepemc men near Yellow Pond below, in Stswecem’c Xgat’tem territory. We talked about a lot of things, including traditional land use, what it is to be White (the elder and I agreed, over some laughter, that it was an easy thing: I thought I was White and he was Secwepemc, and he thought I was not White and he was, with his grandfather a White American and all), bears, moose, the return (!) of the caribou to this ancient hunting ground, and one more thing. He gave me permission to take photographs on this small corner of his homeland. Not being a fool, not every day at least, I thanked him very much. That was respect on both sides.

He didn’t give me permission to tell the story of Yellow Pond here, though, a former beaver pond on the edge of Big Bar Lake, so I don’t. That too is respect. That this pond is beautiful and mysterious and can speak for itself will do as a translation into White culture. It will change us if we pay attention well enough and long enough. The lake, too. Here it is at dawn:

And a minute later.

And Yellow Pond again, giving her own take on these black spruce and Douglas firs.

It’s an image from the other side of understanding, but that’s where Yellow Pond begins. And that’s where we can begin, humbly, on this day of Reconciliation, with the realization that photographs are cultural and the right to make them is something given, and very different from the assumed right to take them. Taking them just won’t do. Making them, well, that’s only an invitation for the making to remake us.

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