What if we could step into a forest and read what happened there as if it were a book? The Stories of the Forest Project shares some of the stories held within the inland temperate rainforest ecosystem that we are part of.
The project, led by historian and writer Laura Stovel and ethnobotanist Christy Shaw, invited 20 diverse people who are knowledgeable about the forests around Revelstoke to take us to a place in the forest that was special to them and tell us what we could learn there. Five of the storytellers are Indigenous knowledge keepers. Four are from the four nations that have historical ties to the rainforests of the Upper Columbia Valley: the Sinixt, Secwépemc, Syilx and Ktunaxa. We were advised along the way by Northern Dené cultural advisor, Annette Loe, who also wrote the four seasonal pieces.
Award-winning photographer Rob Buchanan photographed each landscape and storyteller. Artist Claire Sieber painted details of each story with her beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations.
We hope that this exhibit sparks curiosity and leads those who spend time in the inland temperate rainforest to slow down, pay attention to details, and absorb what the forest has to teach us.
Laura Stovel is a Revelstoke-based writer and historian. She grew up tree climbing and exploring the forests around Revelstoke and knows she is privileged to live on, learn from, and steward this unceded land. She has a PhD in Sociology from Simon Fraser University and has lived in many countries around the world but always returns to Revelstoke. She is the author of four books, the most recent of which is Swift River: Stories of the First People and First Travellers on the Columbia River around Revelstoke.
Christy Shaw is an ethnobotanist who is fascinated by people-plant relationships. She is particularly interested in the role ethnobotany plays in the recognition and affirmation of Indigenous peoples’ land rights. When not working as a traditional researcher or in forestry as a cultural heritage assessor, you can find Christy walking amongst Devil’s club and wild ginger in the forests around Revelstoke, the traditional and unceded territories of the Sinixt, Secwépemc, Ktunaxa and Syilx. She gives thanks to the people and plants who have taught her along the way.
Rob Buchanan is an award-winning photographer, artist, designer and editorial cartoonist. His photographs have appeared in many places, including National Geographic Adventure and Traveler magazines, Bike, Powder, Snowboarder, Explore, the Knowledge Network and Patagonia clothing catalogues. His winning images have been on two world tours with the Banff Film Festival, have hung in Canada’s McMichael Gallery and even appeared on the Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square.
Claire Sieber grew up near the confluence of the Sn̓xwn̓tkwítkw (Columbia) and Illecillewaet rivers, on the unceded territory of the Sinixt, Secwépemc, Syilx and Ktunaxa peoples. Her childhood centred around a Douglas-fir tree where her memories were imprinted with the plait of cedar boughs, cadence of her family’s stories and the laughter of ravens and flickers. Claire’s writing and art reflect relationships with identity and place. Feeling unsettled by her own practice of painting with plastic (acrylics), Claire felt moved to explore natural pigments, further connecting her to this place she calls home. She has engaged her five-year-old son in the respectful harvest and processing of plant materials for pigment. This process deepens her own connection to place while also reaffirming her responsibility as mother to pass teachings of stewardship along to her son. For this project, Claire has been painting narratives of place with factory inks as well as inks made from local charcoal, tannins, rust and berries.
Annette Loe, the project’s cultural advisor, is an explorer of spirit, mind, body and emotion – she calls it finding the balance within us all. She is a writer, an artist, a mediator, a traveler and an educator. Annette is an old soul who speaks with integrity, patience, and understanding and bridges understanding between our diverse cultures in many ways. She is a mixed-blood Northern Dené, Norwegian woman with, she adds with a sparkle in her eye, “a wee bit of French.” She now embraces her Indigenous ancestry with pride, not shame and says, “understanding the strength and then the layers of trauma that our people have endured and continue to live with, is so important to understanding our way, our walk and our ways.” She has a fine arts degree and has self-published the book Northeastern BC History and Memoirs from Mary-Rose Loe, Volume 1 – Old Fort Nelson. Annette finds solace, acceptance, and balance in nature.
Story Tellers & Knowledge Keepers
Kevin Bollefer – Forester
Barb Wadey – Retired Forester
Sarah Newton – Educator
Christy Shaw – Ethnobotanist
John G. Woods – Zoologist
Victor Antoine – Syilx-Okanagan Elder
Lisa Moore – Metis Educator
Sam & Lauren Channell – Students
Ryan Gill – Biologist
Greg Utzig – Conservation Ecologist
Silleattsa7 Randy Williams – Secwepemc knowledge keeper
Ken Talbot – Fisher and forager
Karen Bary – Biologist
Verena Blasy – Amateur lichenologist
i?sxwuxwya? Remey Lacombe –
Claire Sieber – Educator and artist
Matt Angus – Hunter
Rob Serrouya – Caribou Biologist
Giles Shearing – Environmental scientist
Malakai Sam and Michele Sam – Ktunaxa ?aqlsmaknik
With Omid Haerir, Clara and Skye Blyth, Jack Krug, Lillian and Ava Chance, and Isla and Cassia Floyer