A photographic journey explores the world of Canada’s First Nations people.
The latest book from Podlubny (83 Cents, 2004) is a mixture of many forms—memoir, reportage, official documents, and photography—designed to paint a portrait of some members of Canada’s Indigenous population that goes beyond the standard reductions that tend to characterize too much of popular literature on the subject. Throughout the volume, the Canadian photojournalist encourages readers to examine their preconceived notions and be honest with themselves. “When we do business, when we make policies and agreements, when we make money from natural resources, when we judge each other, are we doing it with the colonialist mindset or a new one?” Podlubny asks. “Are we honouring the agreements or are we still a colonialist country?” Through four key principles of reconciliation—knowledge, solution, agreement, and consultation—the author attempts to answer some elementary questions: “What connects you as a human being? What gives you life and sustenance to survive?” In a series of evocative black-and-white photos and moving interviews with First Nations members, the book takes readers inside a world few of them will have visited and introduces them to the complex and three-dimensional people who live there. Podlubny was invited, for instance, to witness Dené Days—“a new annual gathering celebrating” Dené culture and customs—at which he was able to deftly document many different aspects of First Nations life, from the occasional poverty and frustration to the invincible sense of community. The author supplements the text’s vivid reflections and interviews with informative documents reflecting the Canadian government’s long struggle with these issues, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. His crusading tone (“If we continue at the present day to ignore the rights of First Nations in Canada, and ignore the agreements that we live under, we are still operating as a colonial system”) and stirringly humanizing photos combine to create a memorable look at the descendants of Canada’s first inhabitants.
A stark and compassionate snapshot of a defiantly hopeful people.