In cowboy country, known to the locals as Willy’s Puddle, B.C. you will find a beautiful lake, rolling hills, lots to explore and the fabulous Williams Lake Stampede; with all those buff cowboys peering at you with pensive eyes and a dusty smile under the brim of their well worn hats. Yee-haw! Head out of town a bit down a nondescript dusty snake trail and you will find yourself on another planet! “Is it Mars!?” That’s exactly what I was thinking when I came shooting down this cow path like an arrow left it’s bow. Flying in a panic, going too fast around a corner and almost rolling my car trying to arrive on time at Dog Creek Elementary School for a photo-shoot; all the while taking pictures out of my window while driving. Is that illegal? I was navigating dust roads at 80k when 60 is sketchy enough, peering through the lens of my camera and steering with my knee, until I almost ended up road-kill, at which point the D90 was retired! Well hell! Don’t send me to a place that is too beautiful for words and not expect me to be late when I have my camera in hand! This landscape was a location used in many Hollywood films including ‘The 13th Warrior’ and ‘The Thaw’ in 2009.
As multi-skilled as I am I arrived on time – and they weren’t ready. They weren’t ready for an hour and a half! So I stood outside and simply listened – felt. The senses this place taps into is crazy! My mind was running amok with emotion and feeling – I could hear the ghosts of the past and became a part of their ancestral story.
Like Kamloops, B.C. all I could sense to the point of goose-bumps was the spirits of the Native People. I envisioned dark-skinned Natives on the backs of stout, muscle-bound appaloosas decked in traditional clothing and garb, feathers flitting loosely in their long glistening braids, playing with the wind as they peer over the valley at the cowboys on the other side. An eagle screeching over-head completed a phenomenal vibe…. and the cutest little girl tugging at my leg in a gleeful attempt to break my revere.
“Miss photographer lady? It’s fall and fishing season is over! But guess what?! Hunting season starts soon!” she screeched giddily as she peered into her iPhone to confirm stray hairs were being cooperative and she was presentable for the pictures I was about to take. I came to this place naively expecting a traditional native school, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, kids learning by way of Traditional Environmental Knowledge and found instead everything I carried in my bags. But her statement confirmed to me that even though things change, they remain the same. I believe this is the Red Queen Theory. In a mouthful of words, that child made more than a statement and I was touched. The Dog Creek Tribe, like others in B.C. have such respect for their land. It was an extreme pleasure to see signs they had posted reading “Respect Our Grasslands – No Vehicles allowed.”
I was in Reserve Land, the past and the present and I was proud to know I am a part of this great heritage; a part of that respect so deserving of Mother Earth. This is the Creator’s planet in all it’s grandeur and glory, I said a little prayer of thanks to find myself there at that moment and left an offering under a pine.
I stood on the precipice of time that day contemplating this landscape for what seemed an eternity. When darkness muffled my ancestors voice’s and the day was said and done, I headed slowly back to civilization and decided at that moment, I would take this road again but next time, it would be on a horse.
*Dog Creek/Canoe Creek Native Reserve Land, B.C. Canada* by Kelly Little