Our trip began on August 31st, 2014 when our six canoes launched from the Dempster Highway onto the pale brown of the Olgilvie River, on the eastern border of the Peel River Watershed. Spanning almost 68,000 square kilometres through the Yukon and Northwest Territories, the watershed is one of last undeveloped Arctic wilderness areas in Canada and is the cultural heart of multiple First Nation groups. As of January 2014 71% the Peel was opened for economic development related to mining and oil exploration – a decision which has been deeply contested, continuously fought and whose outcome remains uncertain. Over the course of eighteen days our group of twelve people travelled 450 kilometres through this politically complicated, culturally rich and beautiful Canadian landscape before arriving at the Gwich’in First Nation community of Teetl'it zheh / Fort McPherson, on the muddy banks of the Peel River.
In Tandem refers to the unique way canoes are piloted: by two people in partnership, and is a metaphor for the symbiotic relationships I began to feel on this journey. Slowly. Quietly. It speaks to the vulnerabilities we exposed to each other, and the connections created amongst a group of strangers through intensely charged physical and emotional experiences of our prolonged wilderness travel. Through photographs and words, this project looks to share our small slice of a much larger Canadian story.
This project was made as part of The Peel, a multi-layered project bringing together film, the arts and science as a means of telling a uniquely Canadian story. Learn more at thepeel.ca. Generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.