Meet the man who drew nearly 30 hours of caribou hearings
Sam Bradd produces ‘graphic recordings’ of conferences and hearings across Canada
They're probably the coolest-looking conference notes you'll ever read.
In one, swooping lines pour forth from a map, morph into caribou and encircle a Dene drummer. Beneath them are the words: "It is more than a map, it is nature itself."
In another, the shores of Great Bear Lake, N.W.T., run beneath a ribbon of words, imploring the reader to "reconnect with the land."
These notes are the work of graphic artist Sam Bradd. Called "graphic recordings," the notes summarize three days of presentations on caribou harvest management in Colville Lake, N.W.T., organized by the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board.
"We're trying to create a visual record," said Bradd. "This is a type of witnessing."
Bradd's company, Drawing Change, employs five illustrators, including himself, who work across Canada producing visual records for conferences, board meetings, and public hearings.
The results are frequently included in reports or displayed in company headquarters. One of Bradd's drawings was even given legal weight as a memorandum of understanding.
At the Colville Lake hearings, Bradd spent nearly 30 hours drawing, redrawing and amending, using only markers and chalk. He prepared by reading the presentations in advance, and practising his drawings of caribou.
"At the start, I was told my caribou looked like moose," he said.
Bradd's records needed to be able to accommodate both the technical charts and graphs of territorial biologists and the deeply personal accounts of elders.
"Sometimes it's a very in the head and cognitive approach, and sometimes it's more in the heart," he said.
At the end of the hearings, speakers were given time to review the drawings, and suggest any amendments.
After reviewing his notes on Colville Lake's local management plan, David Codzi, who helped present the plan, suggested he reflect that the "old ways" mentioned by elders are not a thing of the past.
Bradd added a bullet point reading, "OUR WAYS ARE ALIVE — and MODERN today!"
Bradd's work made an impact on Ethel Blondin-Andrew, who represented the Indigenous Leadership Initiative at the hearings.
"This form of communication works," she said. "Anyone could pick it up and look at the story of Deline, or [the] Sahtu."
Blondin-Andrew suggested the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board include the drawings in their reporting on the hearings, and in educational materials for hunters and youth.
"Our presentation was a complex topic, and Sam got it. If he got it, then the Dene people have it," she said.
Bradd said he hopes his work helps share what was said in the hearings with those who weren't able to attend.
He also hopes his images inspire people to reflect.
"Art can heal us," he said. "I think art is a way into deeper conversation."
Take a look at all of Bradd's notes from the session below.