Northern re-exposure: Journalist retraces steps of '70s visit in new exhibit

Recordings and photos of Indigenous people collected more than 40 years ago have been brought back to life through a new exhibit at Carleton University.
Wake's exhibit, Thunder in Our Voices, is on display until Sunday. (Christine Maki/CBC)

Recordings and photos of indigenous people collected more than 40 years ago have been brought back to life through a new exhibit at Carleton University. 

Drew Ann Wake was a CBC reporter in the 1970s when the tape was first collected.

She was travelling with Justice Thomas Berger, who visited Indigenous communities along the MacKenzie River Valley, in the Northwest Territories, to hear how a proposed pipeline project could affect them.

Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., taken during the 1970s when Justice Berger visited the community. (Drew Ann Wake)

Wake recently discovered the tapes in a suitcase, along with some photos, and decided to visit the communities where they were originally recorded to play them for people who could be descendants.

"We literally went from village to village along the river," said Wake. "People would come at 10 o'clock or at midnight, and would knock on the door and say, 'I hear you have a photograph of my great-grandfather. Could I see it?'"

The first community Wake visited was the tiny community of Nahnni Butte, N.W.T.  It has a population of about 85 people, and the chance to hear this old audio drew most of the elders in the community, who brought along their children and grandchildren.

Although many of the tapes included testimony about the impact of the pipeline, some contained personal stories, including Suzie Tiktalik's story of being chased by four polar bears.

"It is one of my favourite stories from the inquiry days," said Wake. 

Suzie's great-grandaughter first heard that audio after Wake visited her community. She later ended up working as a researcher on the project.

 The exhibit, Thunder in Our Voices, is on display at Carleton University's MacOdrum Library until Sunday, March 26.