Film, Washed Away, will share stories of the connections people had to the Columbia River

The project, a collaboration between the Revelstoke Museum and local filmmaker Agathe Bernard, will tell the stories of the displacement of the Sinixt people, the salmon and the settlers.

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An interior shot of the new Stories Beneath the Surface exhibit at the Revelstoke Museum & Archives. Photo: Agathe Bernard/Revelstoke Museum & Archives

The Revelstoke Museum and Archives is collaborating with award-winning photographer and filmmaker Agathe Bernard to create Washed Away, a short film telling the stories of the connection people had to the Columbia River and the land that it flowed through. The film will tell the stories of the displacement of the Sinixt people who once lived and thrived in the valley, the displacement of the salmon and other species and the displacement of the settlers.

In 2018, the Revelstoke Museum and Archives created the exhibition Stories Beneath the Surface, to bring awareness to a fading story of the Columbia Valley — the displacement of approximately 2000 people to make way for the reservoir of the High Keenleyside Dam that opened at Castelgar in 1969. Museum curator Cathy English became aware that many of the local school children and many new residents knew about “the flats” south of Revelstoke, but did not know the history of land use in the region. The dam was far away, close to 230 kilometres south and built so long ago How could it be relevant to us now?

Stories Beneath the Surface tells the stories of the communities that existed in the valley south of Revelstoke: the Ukrainian settlement of Mount Cartier; Twelve Mile, where a ferry crossed the river; the farming community of Sidmouth; and the once-thriving Arrowhead, a transportation and forestry hub. The exhibition gives a snapshot of the lives of the settlers in the region. The narrative then sifts to displacement. Three video interviews of former residents of the valley share common themes of sadness and powerlessness. There was little negotiation. Residents were told they needed to leave, and told what they would be paid for their properties.

The exhibition has been widely viewed by local residents and visitors alike, and eight school classes from Grades 1 to 5 visited and learned the stories. A whole new generation of residents will grow up here knowing the stories of the land and river.

There are more stories to be told, and work has begun on the collaboration between the museum and Bernard to create Washed Away. The museum is thankful for project funding from the Community Initiatives Program of the Columbia Basin Trust. Additional funding is needed to complete the project and bring the story to a wider audience. Donations can be made online through Canada Helps (a link to the donation page can be found on the homepage of the Revelstoke Museum and Archives website). Donations can also be dropped off in person to the museum or mailed to PO Box 1908, Revelstoke BC, V0E 2S0. Tax receipts will be issued for all donations.

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