A Chatroom
is Worth
a Thousand Words




Michelle Nahanee

Michelle’s suite of five rooms forms a circle with a central hub room, called "onguard". There you are greeted by a classic cigar-store Indian. A modest war bonnet adorns his brown, droopy face. He folds his arms guardedly across his chest…and speaks!

"People always tell me how handsome I am," he silently says. When I was a young girl, cigar-store Indians scared me. I imagined them to be angry about their frozen state, and about having to guard a silly store when really they should be out hunting or canoeing, or at the very least, watching tv!

But listen to this one, making polite –if somewhat immodest– conversation. Perhaps he has been tamed by the Banff souvenir industry. All of Michelle’s rooms reference the tourist trade, and it’s relationship to First Nations people. The four circular windows that he watches come from a building on the summit of Sulpher mountain, a short gondola ride away from the numberous souvenir shops of Banff Avenue.

Each porthole is a hotspot to a different room. The "nearest" one leads to "mn_lilgirls", where an army of kitchy, mass-produced Indian baby dolls confronts you. While they each wear different outfits, the dolls’ faces are, of course, identical. As two dolls on the right argue as to who is the Indian princess, a doll on the left channels the faces of three generations of real Indian princesses with their varying expressions and styles, making the souvenir dolls’ argument moot. In the sister room next door, "big girls" wearing "Made in Canada" wrist tags (real leather!) discuss their wardrobe.

"I'm just trying to blend" confesses a strange figure in "mn_museum". He seems to be an odd hybrid between the totem poles in the museum and the cigar-store Indian –with an even sadder face. Michelle found this poor wooden wannabe at the top of Sulpher too, but she thought he might fit in better at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The two Indian visitors turn their backs on the collection, disappointed. Instead, they walk towards a fire hydrant, used here as a metaphor for the Red Road, a term used to describe a traditional, Indian way of life.

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Marilyn Burgess

Jason Lewis

Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

Michelle Nahanee

Travis Neel


Sheila Urbanoski

Trevor Van Weeren