Just off the highway in the Similkameen Valley in British Columbia, there’s an idyllic white church that most travellers barely notice. But this little chapel is an integral part of the history and identity of the Similkameen people―as well as a symbol of the conflicted position of the Church on First Nations communities in Canada.
For Métis artist Tyler Hagan, the church off the highway serves as the focal point of an interactive photo essay entitled Similkameen Crossroads, as Hagan seeks to reconcile his Christian upbringing with the Church’s blighted yet enduring relationship with First Nations people.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Similkameen Crossroads combines stunning images of the church and surrounding valley with audio fragments from Hagan’s highly personal exploration of place, faith and identity. It’s the latest interactive work from the NFB, whose Web documentaries and immersive online experiences are pioneering new directions in storytelling while exploring underrepresented stories and issues across Canada.
After his Christian upbringing in the suburbs of Vancouver, Hagan was thrust into an examination of faith and identity when his father died―triggering a process that eventually led him to claim Métis citizenship. For Similkameen Crossroads, he spent weeks gathering images and interviews, aided by the generous spirit of the people of the Similkameen Valley, who shared their stories, beliefs and practices. What they described to Hagan was a complex, often contradictory, set of spiritual and cultural identities, one that gave this Vancouver-based filmmaker and digital artist an invaluable working model for a way of being that embraces multiplicity.
Created by Tyler Hagan and the NFB Digital Studio, Similkameen Crossroads is written by Hagan and Jen Moss. The interactive producers are Dana Dansereau and Jen Moss, with Loc Dao as executive producer and creative technologist. User experience and graphic design is by Sean Embury, with technical development by Steve Mackie.
Similkameen Crossroads is the second interactive release from the NFB/imagineNATIVE Digital Media Partnership, which supports new forms of Indigenous artistic expression and offers Canadian Aboriginal artists an opportunity to develop audacious, innovative and socially relevant new media works.