Dignity & Respect
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Affirming our common human experience with the Aboriginal Peoples of our country is the purpose behind the Dignity & Respect series.

When people see each other in ways that affirm our collective human condition, we value each other more deeply. And when we value each other at the deepest human levels, only then do we also respect each other’s histories, heritages, and cultures. Creating that value is the primary concern of Dignity & Respect.

What is the Dignity & Respect project?

This  documentary photo project tells about the spirit and culture of the Indigenous Peoples in our region. While important work is being done by many to identify the critical issues facing Indigenous Peoples in Canada, this project differs in its intent by acknowledging and celebrating our common humanity. This effort focuses on the things that need to be appreciated and recognized, not just the abject struggles.

Imagery of life’s joys and sorrows (both public and private) that highlight the things we value most preciously — despite our different heritages — will create vital emotional connections by showing us the human side of each other: marriages, births, memorials, and pageants. We all relate to these things on a very deep human level, no matter who experiences them. They are the common denominators of our lives together.

Deeper reasons

Resurrections following episodes of what amount to cultural genocide happen when the language, culture, and dignity of a people are not just acknowledged but fostered and valued. Only through a conscious effort on the part of the collective can real reconciliation really happen.

Inquiries like those of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, or the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls are necessary, of course, but they are formalities, a small part of a much larger process that has to begin with re/kindling our respect for each other as human beings. A more meaningful part of the process, one which takes much longer, is to protect the dignity of individuals and societies alike. And one way to do this is to counter mainstream media’s stereotypes of Aboriginal Peoples. That is the goal behind this work.

Who is included the Dignity & Respect project?

The Dignity & Respect documentary initiative creates images of people and events that inspire exactly what the title says: dignity and respect of Indigenous Peoples. That would include, where possible, public and private moments in the lives of indigenous peoples that show the things we all celebrate as human beings. That includes potlatches, reconciliation events, public cultural events but also weddings, birth celebrations, and memorials.

If an event can inspire a connection by being shared with the world, it’s fit for this project.

What happens to the photos? How are they used?

The photos will be used as a way to inspire appreciation of individuals and cultures alike. The success of the project will be measured by people are encouraged to share parts of their lives so we can all understand our common interests. Early, the photos will be posted on the Dignity & Respect project pages as a means of generating interest in the project. Long term, over months and years, a body of work will be created that will be submitted to publications, shown in exhibitions, and finally included in a book that celebrates the lives of our contemporary Indigenous cousins.

Further, my work on the project will be licensed free to the Indigenous non-profit organizations for use in their campaigns to raise awareness for their causes and concerns where that work is focused on fostering mutual understanding and respect.

Who do I work with?

I work with individuals & families, non-profits & charities, community groups & socially-oriented organizations. If an individual or group can help contribute to the goal of dignity and respect, they can be part of the story.

Do I get paid for this work?

No.

In most cases I do my work for free for the individuals, families, and organizations I support and serve. I do try to fundraise for my projects where possible, so donations for my work are very welcome.

Please be part of the Dignity & Respect effort

We need your story, your insight, your voice. Changing the collective perception of Indigenous peoples will have far reaching effects that will benefit all people living Canada. Be part of our future.

If you’d like to be part, please contact the documentarian, Kevin Shoesmith, directly through this form:

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