Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Antonia Mills in Kelowna this summer. “Tonia” was married to Robin Ridington from 1964 until 1975, and they conducted fieldwork together with the Dane-zaa between 1964 and 1971. The Ridington archives contain over 700 photos and recordings that were captured during this time. This invaluable connection to our history will be brought to life in an exciting multimedia project initiated by Prophet River Lands Department.
While working on this project, we had the opportunity to meet with Mills in Kelowna BC this summer and share some of her memories. She and her husband at the time, Robin Ridington became friends with the Dane-Zaa and spent every summer up there. During that time she was working on her PHD in Anthropology and Child Development at Harvard. She fondly remembers the hospitality of Sam and Jean St. Pierre and the pies at Lum and Abners across the street. Many members may remember “Tonia” from her time in Prophet River.
Of particular interest, Mills was invited to witness one of the last dreams of the living prophet Charlie Yahey from Blueberry. She remembers Charlie going into a deep trance while the others in the room maintained silence and a sacred space. When he returned from the dream he drew his visions on a scroll of paper. His prophecies include the decline in the caribou population and cautioned the community that the world would end if we don’t treat it right. He brought back songs to share and heal the community. Some of these songs can be found in these archives.
Mills remembers when many of these photos were taken and was able to share her memories with the team. This media is currently being used as part of a larger project with Ecora. This includes geotagging and mapping the locations and sharing the stories with our Elders and eventually with the community.
Mills was previously a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer at the University of Virginia, USA. She earned her BA from Radcliffe/Harvard, and her PhD from Harvard. First Nations land claims, religion and law, and reincarnation beliefs and cases are her current research interests.
Visit Page 6 to see some of the photos from the Ridington Dane-zaa Archives.