British Columbia·Photos

'Dreamers and Dissidents' profiles legends of the Kootenays

A First Nations leader, an Italian immigrant family, the ranchers who lost their land to dams, and a woman who sought out clean mountain air are just some of the central characters featured in Dissidents and Dreamers, a documentary series about Kootenays legends produced by a Nelson filmmaker.

Dissidents and Dreamers about leaders, survivors and pioneers who helped make the Kootenays

Many Kootenay residents brought their culture with them, including their theatre traditions. (submitted by Amy Bohigian)

The Knowledge Network debuted a new documentary series this week produced by Nelson's Amy Bohigian that tells the stories of some of the most interesting and inspiring characters the Kootenays has ever produced.

In its initial run, Dreamers and Dissidents is showcasing nine stories of colourful and influential people who have impacted the Kootenays.

"When the opportunity came up to do a history project, I thought, well, there's plenty of personalities here in the Kootenays, and I won't have any lack of characters and subjects," Bohigian told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"There was a really amazing physicality to having lived here in the early days, and the people who came here to chop down trees and build orchards from practically nothing … there was an amazing pioneering spirit that is still here today."

Five of the characters featured in the series' first season are profiled below.

Mattie Gunterman

Mattie Gunterman (far left) left her home in the big city to work as a camp cook for miners and loggers. (submitted by Amy Bohigian )

Mattie Gunterman was a Seattle woman who left the city because she believed the damp weather was harming her lungs.

She lead her family on an almost 1,000-kilometre journey on foot (seen here) to Beaton, where she worked as a camp cook for miners and loggers, and documented their lives in photographs.

Bruce Rohn

Bruce Rohn posed his mother mother in front of their burning house after setting it alight to make way for a hydro dam. (submitted by Amy Bohigian)

Bruce Rohn was a teenager when his family, like many others, was forced out of their home by B.C. Hydro to clear the land for dams built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

However, Rohn found work on the crews building those dams, and part of his job was to burn down houses where the reservoir would flood the land — including his own.

He posed his mother in front of their home one last time before he lit a match and threw it into his childhood bedroom.

Betty Tillotson

Betty Tillotson (back middle) moved to the Kootenays in 1972 to save her son from being drafted in the Vietnam War. (submitted by Amy Bohigian)

Betty Tillotson moved to Argenta, B.C. in 1972 over fears that her son would be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

She joined the Committee to Aid American War Objectors and helped American men who were draft eligible escape to Canada. Many of these men stayed in the Kootenays, and Nelson now even has a memorial to the draft dodgers.

Sophie Pierre

Sophie Pierre (second from left) as a child at St. Eugene Mission. (submitted by Amy Bohigian)

In 1956, five-year-old Sophie Pierre was sent to the St. Eugene Mission, a residential school for First Nations children in the Kootenays.

She saw much abuse during her time there, but she was a survivor, and after leaving school she became a respected leader, including becoming chief of her nation, the St. Mary's Indian Band, for 26 years.

During her tenure, the First Nation took possession of St. Eugene, and it is now a successful casino and resort. Pierre was most recently chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission.

Stanley Triggs

Stanley Triggs helped preserve Kootenays life and culture. (submitted by Amy Bohigian)

Stanley Triggs spent many years documenting Kootenays life. Born and raised in Nelson, Triggs preserved Kootenays culture in the form of folk songs, oral histories and photographs.

In addition to collecting and preserving historic photographs, Triggs was instrumental in documenting the years from 1967-1972, when thousands were displaced and a way of life changed as ranchers and other rural people were shuffled off their land to make room for dams.


To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Dreamers and Dissidents profiles legends of the Kootenays

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