Mountain People

mountain people—Artist residency. The Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada.

Mountain People was a residency amongst community residents, in the small town of Banff, located within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. This magnificent wild landscape, with its picturesque settlement nestled within this mountainous region, inspired a wave of pioneers in the late Victorian period. The architects of these alpine townships, gained entry to these challenging environments, by way of the new transcontinental railway, which arrived in Banff in 1888.

Research, at the Whyte Museum & Art Gallery Archives, acquainted and directed me to community residents who had lived most of their lives in the town, some of whose ancestors were those first settlers and pioneers. Two narratives below (selected from a series of four) tell the stories of two of Banff’s most venerated living community members, whom over their lifetimes, made significant contributions to their communities. These people kindly invited me into their homes, furnishing me with tea, family photographs and stories collected through audio recordings.

Through their shared memories and images, we arrive at not just a history of Banff: their personal stories speak to the broader narratives of the continent, a picture of Northern America over the past century and the people inspired to brave the elements, inhabit and settle within these daunting surroundings. Personal and family accounts tell us of migration; the hardships of mountain living; raising a family; living in the wild; historical royal visits; ground-breaking medical procedures; skiing and mounting climbing. Mountain People is a portrait of a community shared through their heritage.