My grandfather, Byron, used the public space in this building to display his extensive collection of mountain photographs and related subjects. The hand-colouring would have been done by a local woman as piece work, a common practice of the time. Many of the First Nation portraits were made into postcards, prints, and other photographic souvenir offerings by Byron Harmon Photos.
I was always struck by the beautiful hand-colouring with occasional awkward touches, contrasting with the larger black-and white-images which ran around the perimeter of the store at the top of the walls. These images captured both nobility and sorrow and have always struck me as uncompromising in their honesty. This selection of images was chosen, presumably by Byron, from a larger collection of First Nations portraits which form a small but important part of the Byron Harmon collection.
Banff Indian Days was an annual event organized by the Stoney First Nations with help from Banff locals which began in 1889 when a mud slide blocked the railroad keeping visitors to the Banff Springs Hotel trapped in town. Tom Wilson, on behalf of the CPR, asked the Stoney First Nation if they would present some of their ceremonial and sports activities in Banff to entertain and educate the guests of the hotel. They obliged and the event was so popular it grew and became an annual celebration until 1978.
In 2005 Banff Indian Days was revived by the Stoney to introduce their culture to a younger generation and also educate and entertain the public. Once again it attracts other First Nation peoples to participate and is held on the traditional ceremonial grounds, ‘Mînî Hîrhpa Tîda’ (Cascade Meadows) beneath Stoney Chief Mountain (Cascade Mountain). Today this event is organized entirely by the Stoney themselves. More information is on the Indian Days web site: http://www.banffindiandays.ca
The Stoney First Nation consists of three bands: Chiniki or Chinike, Wesley, and Bearspaw who share the Stoney Reserve between Canmore and Calgary. More information about the Stoney Nation is on their web site: http://www.stoneynation.com/
Little is known of the history of these images or of Byron’s relationship with the Stoney Nation. No written material exists at all, simply the images themselves. Byron Harmon was born on Whidbey Island and raised near Olympia, Washington. Both his Mother, Clara Harmon, and maternal Grandmother, Priscilla Smith had close relationships with First Nations people who were their neighbours. Perhaps growing up in this atmosphere informed the sensitivity and honesty evident in this body of work.