In the Similkameen

Tyler Hagan, The Church at Chu-Chu-Way-Ha, 2012

Tyler Hagan, Untitled, In the Similkameen, 2012, photo by Kathleen Hepburn

In the Similkameen, installation view at G44, photo by Morris Lum

In the Similkameen, installation view at G44, photo by Morris Lum

In the Similkameen, installation view at G44, photo by Morris Lum

In the Similkameen

Friday, October 18, 2013 to Saturday, November 23, 2013
Opening Reception:
October 18,
6:00PM to 8:00PM
About the Exhibition: 

In the Similkameen is a web documentary and accompanying exhibit by filmmaker Tyler Hagan, which examines different attitudes towards the Church within Aboriginal culture by focusing on one particularly photogenic old church and the people who live around it. Hagan's footage is gathered as part of the interactive web documentary Similkameen Crossroads, which is the second project produced under the NFB/imagineNATIVE Digital Media Partnership.

The interactive project is available online at

Similkameen Crossroads is produced by Jennifer Moss, Dana Dansereau and the NFB Digital Studio. The executive producer is Loc Dao.

Co-presented with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, with the support of the National Film Board of Canada.


Artist Statement

Drive east along the Crowsnest Highway as you exit the old mining town of Hedley, BC, and look to the south-west. An early 20th-century white chapel sits rising from a hill in front of a mountain backdrop. Glacial till is scattered across the valley and the chapel walls glow in the sharp sunlight. Although it looks like one of the many abandoned buildings alongside this country highway, the church is still used.

Just down from the church, tucked along a bend in the highway, lives Carrie Allison. Carrie is in her 80s, lives alone, and takes care of the church. In the winter when it is too cold she has the church service in her house. The surrounding landscape is scattered with deteriorating vehicles and smaller wooden buildings. Horses cluster around shady areas in the distance. Farther back from the highway, by the barn, is the river which has sustained the valley's people for generations. The idyllic white church on top of the hill is on a First Nations reserve.

Carrie's is but one story that intersects with this place. In the Similkameen inhabits this space long enough to place it, to learn its history, to meet its present. It scratches the surface of the conflicted and controversial position of the church on First Nations reserves in Canada. The church, which is traditionally a sanctimonious place of refuge, has a history of terror during the residential school era in Canada. Instead of feeding the soul, the church robbed the indigenous people of this land of their cultural sustenance, and their connection to the Creator, to God.

Today the relationship between the Aboriginal peoples of Canada and the church continues to play a crucial role in the fabric of the country’s constitution. Quietly straddling a fine line between assimilation, non-relevance, and possible redemption, Christianity and First Nations continue their complex and troubled relationship. There remains a collective memory of terror and intergenerational damage to First Nations people and communities. Today many of these buildings still stand, either as abandoned vessels of the past, or as functioning spaces of worship and communion. All of them remain on hallowed ground.

Artist Biography: 

Tyler Hagan is a Métis filmmaker from Vancouver. He received his BFA in film from Simon Fraser University, where he co-founded the filmmaking collective Shakey Films. His latest film This Is How Long These Words Will Last was included as part of the CBC series 8th Fire and his film Estuary was commissioned for imagineNATIVE 2012 as part of the imagineNATIVE/LIFT mentorship.