BANFF – A one-of-a-kind spectacle for the senses at the summit of Sulphur Mountain is once again setting eyes, ears and minds aglow, celebrating the land and those that roamed here since time immemorial.
Nightrise, a collaborative, immersive digital art experience between Pursuit, Montreal-based Moment Factory and the Îyârhe Nakoda, is back at the Banff Gondola to highlight the First Nation‘s language and culture through sight and sound, beginning with an evening ride up the mountain.
“It’s really a very immersive experience, but also it‘s something that really honours the magic of the sacred mountains, in particular to the Stoney Nakoda people in the sense of gathering and the importance of the land to the Stoney Nakoda,” said Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection general manager David Barbour.
“You will hear their voices, you will hear their music, you will see their art.”
Four digital art installations transform the summit after dark. The mountaintop comes alive with vibrant lighting, multimedia effects, video projections and music.
Nightrise celebrated its launch in December 2021, but the event's vision sprouted years earlier, beginning with a conversation between Pursuit and Îyârhe Nakoda elders and knowledge keepers about how to offer a unique, authentic storytelling experience at the site, which, like many sites in the area, is of cultural significance to members of the First Nation.
Sulphur Mountain was and remains an important site for gathering medicinal plants and herbs by the Îyârhe Nakoda people, and members of the First Nation continue to host tobacco ceremonies there.
“Having a relationship with our Indigenous friends is something that’s super important to us,” said Barbour. “The authenticity, for us, is the most important part – it’s really making sure that the stories are being told in the right way, by the right people and in a way that makes sense to the importance of the land.
Nightrise, he added, has been the perfect vehicle to speak to the importance of the land to the Treaty 7 First Nation – a traditional territory holder of the area – on their terms, creatively and otherwise.
Îyârhe Nakoda Nation members will often refer to their culture and language as oral ways of life – much of their traditional knowledge can only truly be experienced or understood in-person, and with permission and protocols in mind. Nightrise, under a blanket of stars in the Bow Valley, provides a generous opportunity to take an insightful look into some of the age-old stories the First Nation holds dear, told by none other.
Barbour said it usually takes at least two hours to soak in and be present with each exhibit, spread over four storeys at the mountain summit building. The display, he added, is best left described to those who experience it themselves, without revealing any further details.
“I don’t like to explain too much about it because part of the fun is the surprise you see when you’re up there,” he said.
Nightrise began Dec. 2 and runs until March 31, 2023 from 5 p.m. at the Banff Gondola. It is free to attend for Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation members.
The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.