Ans Kremer, left, shows Ken Matheson some old books in her home in the Netherlands, telling her story. She lived during the occupation of the country during the Second World Ward. As a child she hid in a cellar as their house was centre of the raging Battle of Arnhem. Kremer died shortly after her oral history was recorded. Matheson said it speaks to the urgency of recording out oral history. (Submitted photo)

Ans Kremer, left, shows Ken Matheson some old books in her home in the Netherlands, telling her story. She lived during the occupation of the country during the Second World Ward. As a child she hid in a cellar as their house was centre of the raging Battle of Arnhem. Kremer died shortly after her oral history was recorded. Matheson said it speaks to the urgency of recording out oral history. (Submitted photo)

Project aims to preserve oral history of the Upper North Thompson valley

The video will document the stories of those who helped make the area unique

The Upper North Thompson valley has a unique history and local documentarian Ken Matheson wants to share its stories.

The Wells Gray Country oral history and film project aims to capture the voices of pioneers, First Nations and settlers in the area during the early 1900s.

Much of B.C. had been explored and colonized by the mid-1800s. During this time, however, the land within Wells Gray Country remained untouched by colonizers, known only to wildlife and First Nations, such as the Secwepemc people. It wasn’t until well into the 20th century that the communities of Little Fort through to Blue River were colonized. The first known homesteaders in Wells Gray Park were John Ray in 1911 and Michael Majerus in 1912.

While many first-hand stories have been lost after people pass away, many are still around with knowledge of what it was like in the early days.

“We’re trying to identify what makes this area unique,” Matheson told the Times. “Getting the stories from the people that have contributed socially, economically, culturally, woven into the thread of the community and how that has affected the personality of who we are.”

The project will focus on 30 people that he and a local working committee identify, from various backgrounds and occupations, including loggers, trappers, Vietnam draft dodgers and First Nations peoples.

While there are some big names in the area that might come to people’s minds when they think about the history of the Upper North Thompson, Matheson said the group is also trying to locate those that maybe aren’t as vocal about their history but have some key stories to tell.

He also hopes to find film footage or photographs taken with older cameras or letters — anything of an archival nature that can be woven into the video to help bring the stories to life and speak about the culture of the area.

“The culture here is different than, say, Barriere or Jasper or 100 Mile House; it’s a completely different way of how we developed,” said Matheson. “You still had that real pioneer feel up until recently.”

The group will begin to find sources through a local working group, finding people through word-of-mouth and knowledge of locals, but Matheson said he’s open to having people contact them and provide recommendations on who they should speak to.

The Upper North Thompson area doesn’t have a museum to house artifacts, documents or displays to share stories of the First Nations people or those who colonized the area in the early 1900s. This is a major reason why Matheson decided to do take on the oral history project.

And because there is no museum, he had reached out to other entities to find suitable storage for the film. The Thompson-Nicola Regional Library has expressed interest, he said, and the team is also looking for groups to support and develop a digital platform available to the public.

Each person interviewed will also get a copy of the footage and their transcript to pass along to future generations.

The first phase of the project is to find sources, record the interviews and collect archival imagery, taking roughly eight months to one year to complete. After that, each interview will be transcribed and compared to get a sense of similarities in the stories told to find a connection. Overall, the project is expected to take several years and Phase 1 is budgeted at $30,000.

Matheson said the project is being done at cost because he’s interested in the stories and in preserving them for future generations.

“I love history. I love people’s stories,” he said. “I love hearing their trials and tribulations and how they overcame things and why things happened the way they did. It’s just fascinating.”

He’s currently taking a course through the University of Lethbridge through the Centre for Oral History and Tradition to assist with the film project. The course involves storytelling from First Nations’ perspective and bridging the gap between oral storytelling and filmmaking.

Those looking for more information or would like to recommend someone, call (250) 674-8159 or email ken@kmdocumentaries.com.



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

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