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'This is our home': photo contest highlights coastal regions of James Bay

Organizers of a photo contest focused on the marine region of eastern James Bay and southeastern Hudson Bay say they saw double the participation this year over last — and it shows people want to share their pride in their traditional homelands.

Participation in the Eeyou Marine Region photo contest doubled over last year

Three-year-old Aryann Hester picks blueberries near Waskaganish, Que. The photo, taken by her mom Mary Jane Salt, won second place in the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board's annual photo contest. This year organizers received double the entries and twice the number of participants. (Mary Jane Salt)

Organizers of a photo contest focused on the marine region of eastern James Bay and southeastern Hudson Bay say they saw double the participation this year over last — and they say it shows people are increasingly wanting to share their pride in their traditional homelands. 

The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board announced the winners to its second annual photo contest Monday and say they received more than 330 entries from 43 participants, double the amount of photos and participants who took part last year. 

"We're really pleased with the level of participation," said Angela Coxon, wildlife management director with the board.

The Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board was created after the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement was signed with the federal government in 2010. It is responsible for wildlife management, regulation and harvesting in the Eeyou Marine Region.

Brian Stewart won first place in the EMRWB photo contest with this shot of a teepee. (Brian Stewart)

"We have this land claims agreement that was created to give Cree ownership and power over the management of the natural resources," Coxon said. The contest "gives local people a way to express their pride in the region." 

In the open category, the winners were: 1st Prize — Brian Stewart (winter teepee); 2nd Prize — Mary Jane Salt (blueberry picking); 3rd Prize — Brian Stewart (goose hunt); and 4th Prize — Louie-Rene Kanatewat (bay sunset).

The prizes ranged from $800 dollars for the first place photo to $200 for the fourth place photo. 

In the professional category, the 1st Prize went to Katherine Dehm (sunset). The prize in this category was $500.

Coxon said the contest gives people a way to share their home and culture with the outside world. 

"You see everything on Facebook, but now there's a platform through the wildlife board to show ... 'this is our home, here's how it's important to us and this is what we do out on the land.'

"It's such an integral part of the culture," said Coxon. 

Katherine Dehm won first prize in the professional category with this shot near Wemindji, winning $500. (Katherine Dehm)

Coxon said the posting of the contest results on social media has reached more than 5,000 people and some of the submitted photos will be used on the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board's website and newsletter which will be out this winter. 

She also said that some of the photos will be part of a calendar the board will put out in the weeks ahead. 

The board's team is already working on next year's contest and are hoping to have an additional category focused on historical photos.

"Show us how much the coast has changed. Show us what early life was like on the coast. What the camps were like on the offshore islands," said Coxon. 

Coxon also said they are also looking at ways to open up the voting on the final selection of photos to people living in the coastal communities.

This photo by Louie-Rene Kanatewat on the coast north of Chisasibi won fourth place. (Louie-Rene Kanatewat)

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