This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
Indigenous Knowledge and the Box of Treasures
Indigenous Knowledge and the Box of Treasures
We are collaborating with the Kwakwaka'wakw people to create a book of portrait photography and interviews about their culture.
We are collaborating with the Kwakwaka'wakw people to create a book of portrait photography and interviews about their culture. Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
About this project
Our Kickstarter book project is called In Their Hands: The Keepers of the Box of Treasures.
The funds raised through Kickstarter from our wonderful supporters will go to producing this book, including any additional equipment or travel.
100% of the net proceeds from the book sales will go toward Indigenous language education in the Kwakwkak'wakw community.
We will not take any royalties or any of the profits from the sale of the books.
This project welcomes you to witness the knowledge and experience of the elders of the Kwakwkak’wakw people talking about resilience, reconciliation and strength.
We are collaborating in this tremendous book and online project with two women steeped in their culture. Andrea Cranmer is a traditional culture teacher and mentor. Pewi Alfred teaches Kwak'wala at the elementary school in Alert Bay and is a traditional dance instructor. They both grew up in the Kwakwaka’wakw culture in Alert Bay, British Columbia learning about their traditions from their mothers and fathers, grandmothers, other family members and their community.
As teachers and mentors they have devoted their lives to their culture, passing it on to the next generation. We are very thankful they are working with us, insuring the voice of the project is that of the First Nations community.
In Their Hands started 17 years ago when I was asked by Andrea Sanborn, the U’Mista Cultural Center’s executive director, to photograph the older members of the community. Pamela joined me to interview them while I created their portraits. The result is a series of intimate portraits of these elders and in-depth interviews. Please visit our website HERE where I talk more about how I see the art of portraiture.
What will you experience by being a part of this project?
By celebrating the oldest members of the community, the youth and the earth, we build a bridge stretching between cultures. Across this bridge travel traditions, healing, reconciliation, strength, stories, spirit, music and mystery.
Some aspects of the Kwakwaka'wakw culture are held in their Box of Treasures. But what is the Box of Treasures? We asked seven members of the community this question ranging in ages from 14 years old to 83 years old. The answers are revealing and fascinating. Here is the first in the Video Series "What is the Box of Treasures?" with Patricia Nolie of Alert Bay, British Columbia. For the rest of the series, please click HERE.
Looking around us we see the kaleidoscope of world cultures
has not yet turned
monochromatic but the threat is on the horizon for many Indigenous cultures. If First Nations cultures are diminished, we are all
Look at the faces and their hands of these older members of the First Nations community.
Listen as the Kwakwaka'wakw elders share their life experiences.
When we grow and learn together, we strengthen each other and celebrate our similarities as well as our differences.
We ask you to join us!
Contribute to our Kickstarter campaign!
Accompany us on this fascinating journey!
What motivates us?
A sense of urgency that energizes but does not make us
The feeling of being part of a groundswell, like a rising spring tide.
A push toward greater things ahead.
Working with people who have no time to waste.
Honoring and celebrating the resilience of this complex culture through their grandmothers and grandfathers.
Who has guided us in this direction?
First it was Andrea Sanborn, the executive director of the
U'Mista Cultural Center.
Now it is our collaborators, Andrea Cranmer and Pewi Alfred.
But it has also been so many members of the Kwakwaka'wakw community who have been so generous with their time and encouragement, like Robert “Bobbie Joe” Joseph, Stan Hunt, Maxine Matilpi, Beau Dick, Vera Cranmer, Don Svanvik, Juanita Johnson and many others.
What do we expect to accomplish with this project?
In collaboration with First Nations communities, and more
specifically the Kwakwaka’wakw community, we are working toward better relationships between cultures. This project is a model of how non-natives work together with Indigenous peoples to
make a healthy planet with courageous youth and honored elders; where
reconciliation, collaboration and resilience define our inter-cultural
This book project and its accompanying online language resources highlight the resilient spirits of many older First Nations community members. They tell their own stories accompanied in the book by portraits of their faces and hands. In Their Hands: The Keepers of the Box of Treasures provides a platform from which to broadcast the values of these elders.
With your generous help and support, this project will add to work already begun: Indigenous language education, teaching community youth the age-old Kwakwaka’wakw cultural traditions, and involving the community in reconciliation through story-telling and portraits. By engaging non-native people outside of the Kwakwaka’wakw community in these efforts, through the sales of this book, our collaboration will support the strength of this complex, resilient culture.
The Ace Up Our Sleeve
Dos Polacas’ real treasure lies in our unparalleled access to the Indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest developed over the last twenty-five years. These personal connections allow us to sit at kitchen tables sipping coffee and in carving sheds watching artists at work. Every chance we get, we document the older peoples' humor, stories, knowledge and personalities so they are not lost to the passage of time.
What needs to be done?
We still need to:
- Make around 40 more portraits
- Record another 40 interviews or so
- Create more excellent photographs
- And publish In Their Hands: The Keepers of the Box of Treasures.
What experience do we have?
As a fifth generation artist I am driven by the power of creative images. My camera is not just the tool I use to create photographic portraiture, it also allows me to stand on a bridge, that crosses between different cultures. Through my lens I am fortunate to observe ceremonies, photograph fine art being made, listen while stories and songs are shared and make portraits of those same story tellers and singers. Photography gives voice to my experiences and allows me a personal interpretation of the world.
Spending decades with Native and First Nation peoples of the Inland and Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada has dramatically affected my attitude towards how and what I see. Through experiencing the diversity of peoples I have learned to recognize the colors, the light and it’s shadow side, of my home, here in the Pacific Northwest, in a very distinct way. Against a backdrop of magnificent natural beauty that is the Northwest Coast these same decades have gifted me with life-long friendships within Native and First Nations communities. Through these dear friends, aunties, and uncles I continue to learn about the richness and drama deeply woven into the daily lives of Indigenous peoples. I am profoundly grateful and honored not only each time I lift a camera and exchange that moment that becomes an image...but also for the joy of presence and connection.
The job of documenting elders belongs not only to the photographer’s eye but also to the writer’s words. The Kwakwaka’wakw elders talk to me and I listen, recording their voices, using their stories to strengthen vital cross-generational and cross-cultural exchange. Sharon and I have worked together on many smaller projects since 1997, when we produced the publication Opening Hearts about the Raramuri people (Tarahumara) of the Copper Canyon of Mexico.
For Opening Hearts, I wrote the background pieces and sidebars, transcribed interviews, and assembled the pieces for publication. I put the complex culture and history of the Raramuri people into a context that allowed for non-Raramuri to begin to understand this tribe’s self-imposed isolation from the Mexico around them. Since then we have worked on numerous projects large and small. For In Their Hands, my role is to not only capture the elder’s spoken words but create the interview’s context on both an intimate and universal scale in as few words as possible. I bring context and a written beauty to Sharon's photography.
Sharon and Pamela speak about
the world in the same way but Sharon uses imagery while Pamela uses words.
"Our goal is to have 90% of the words in our book be from interviews. You will read the words of the Kwakwaka’wakw community explaining their culture, not our words."
This online part of the project will supplement Kwak’wala language education. Whenever possible, Pamela records stories in both the speaker’s native language and in English. These recordings will be available on a webpage.
Book Project Summary
- Approximately 1,000 books will be
- Each book will contain 150
pages of intimate black and white (Duotone) portrait photography by Sharon of the older members of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation
- Additional stunning photography
of the Pacific Northwest coast by Sharon
- Personal, in-depth interviews
and stories, recorded by Pamela, transcribed from recordings
Additional information on the Kwakwaka’wakw culture to be provided by native community members, edited by Pamela and community members
A dedicated webpage with recorded stories in both English and Kwak’wala will be available for free
- The funds raised through Kickstarter will go to producing the book, including additional equipment and travel.
- 100% of the net proceeds from book sales will go toward Indigenous language education.
- Pamela and I will not take any royalties or any of the profits from the sale of the completed books.
This is our gift.
We are supported in this project by
- the U'mista Cultural Center and Museum in Alert Bay, British Columbia
- the Burke Museum in Seattle
- the University of British Columbia's Belkin Gallery
- the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver BC
- Lindblad Expeditions
These organizations support us by using their own social media to broadcast this project.
We dedicate this work to the children, our greatest resource.
Risks and challenges
Our first challenge is finding the relaxed time to sit with the Kwakwaka'wakw older community members. When we are with them photographing and interviewing, we are on their time. We have budgeted for many trips to Alert Bay. Interviews happen on the elders' schedule, in a relaxed fashion or not at all. We also understand the majority of the community is on the move during the summer, harvesting berries, fishing and bringing home the bounty their natural world provides. Most of our work will probably be done over the winter months, from October 2017 to April 2018 although some excellent opportunities may come to us over the summer. A serendipity, like fireflies, lands in your hands only when you're not trying too hard to catch one.
Our second challenge is finding an enthusiastic publisher who can work with us, crafting this book within our budget. We have two excellent leads we are currently following up. We will broadcast publishing decisions as they happen.