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In this remote town you’re either working at the uranium mines or fighting against them | Black Rock

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Published 2 years ago

Growing up in English River First Nation, the uranium mines were always part of Tenille Campbell's life.

Even though she's lived hundreds of kilometres away from English River since she was 18, the mines have remained an important part of her story — on the day after their wedding, her ex-husband had to fly out to the mines to work for two weeks.

But the mines are the only big business in the community. For Tenille, the dream of becoming a writer and photographer meant leaving her hometown for other opportunities. #CBCShortDocs #BlackRock

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When Tenille speaks about the north, she talks about the northern lights and blueberries. The images she captures are full of beauty and laughter. When she talks about how she always imagined living her life up north, you can understand why.

More than a decade after leaving home, Tenille returns an award-winning author and professional photographer. Now, she’s embarking on a new project: telling her community’s story and its complicated relationship with the uranium mines. She’s back to photograph and interview English River’s residents for her gallery show, to showcase the stories and faces of an Indigenous community caught in the boom and bust cycle of the uranium industry.

English River First Nation’s history with the uranium industry has deep roots. For some, like Tom Lariviere (who has been working in the mines since the '70s), "the mines have improved the quality of living up here in the north."

But not everyone agrees. English River First Nation residents Marius and Candyce Paul have spent the last two decades fighting what they call "the invasion" of the nuclear and uranium industries in the north. They've fought English River’s collaboration deal with the uranium companies, and the nuclear waste dump proposal in their community. They're concerned about the possible contamination of their lands and the possible health impacts on their people, so they've started collecting data on radioactivity in their community. They’ve also established a whistleblower’s hotline for miners to report any issues or concerns that may impact the land or the people at the mines.

But in a town where the only significant source of employment is the uranium industry, fighting against it can be a lonely road. Black Rock follows Marius and Candyce Paul on their journey searching for the truth, in an attempt to protect and preserve their lands for their future generations.

The film follows the intertwining stories of a remote community, exploring the complexities of being caught between putting food on the table and protecting the land that feeds you.

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