Ancestors: Indigenous Peoples of Western Canada in Historic Photographs 

Curators: Sarah Carter and Inez Lightning

21 Sept 2022 to 31 March 2023

Link to digital introduction

[Open 1-4pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; class/group visits may be requested for Mondays 1-4pm by writing to Please note that Peel is closed December 26 through January 4, February 20, and April 7-10.]

This exhibition explores a selection of photographs from a rich and diverse collection with potential for enhancing our understanding of the history, economies, culture, ceremonies, and art of the Indigenous Peoples of the western provinces. By sharing the many insights and perspectives generously provided to them by Elders and keepers of traditional knowledge, the curators hope to show us some of the ways that the photographs in this exhibition represent more than moments frozen in time; they carry stories and legacies into the future.

To learn from these photographs, it is crucial that we try to understand them in context. Most of these photographs were created in the nineteenth century by non-Indigenous photographers. Frequently sold as souvenirs or postcards, these images of Indigenous peoples were contrived and disseminated for commercial, ideological, and imperial reasons, and they seemed to satisfy a hunger for exotic, nostalgic, and romanticized depictions of so-called “vanishing” peoples.

The exhibition catalogue—winner of the Margaret McWilliams Book Award in the Popular History category, one of three finalists in the Women Writers category for a High Plains Book Award, and recognized with an honorable mention (8. Exhibition Catalogues) in the annual University & College Designers Association (UCDA) Awards—is sold out in the Peel library but is still available through University of Alberta Press or Indigo.

Many of the photographs from the Indigenous Photograph Collection can be viewed online through the Internet Archive.