An incident of alleged vandalism on some centuries-old Indigenous artwork has drawn lots of attention online in the last week.
On July 18, Brandon Metchooyeah of Vegreville and his girlfriend were on a tour in the Canmore area, particularly Grotto Canyon, which is known for its pictographs, the oldest of which are estimated to have been painted over 1000 years ago.
Metchooyeah and his girlfriend were the only two on the tour, though the pathways were busy that day in the Grotto Canyon area.
Among those on the pathways were what looked to be a family.
"Our tour guide happened to notice there was an older gentleman, a couple of kids, and an adult lady there. The older man and two kids were taking their walking sticks and scratching up and down the rock face. Our tour guide was immediately annoyed and started hollering at these people. They looked at us and started to scurry away," says Metchooyeah.
Upon closer inspection of that section of wall, the tour guide confirmed there were new scratch marks on the wall obscuring part of the paintings, having not seen them the day before.
Metchooyeah snapped a picture of the wall, as well as the family themselves.
He shared the pictures on Reddit, where it received over 44,000 upvotes and thousands of comments across several subreddits.
Many commenters shared Metchooyeah's outrage.
"That's equivalent to walking into a museum, taking a previous piece of art, smashing it into pieces, and walking away. What goes through your mind that you should go up to something that's a thousand years old, a part of our history in Canada, and just taking a stick and erasing it right off the face of the wall?"
One point he and others found particularly frustrating was the inclusion of children among the alleged vandals.
"What goes through your mind that you make that okay for yourself and for your children to do? You're supposed to be leading by example and this is the example that you're giving the kids you're with, that you're making this okay?"
Though the collective response gave him a feeling of validation in his anger toward the act of vandalism, he's still feeling as enraged as he did on that day.
"This is not what our country is about. We have already done enough harm to the Indigenous peoples in the years we've been here, why is it continuing to happen today? The Indigenous people have been using that area for thousands of years. Part of that painting is, they figure, thousand of years old. So they were living in that canyon and painting their story on the wall. Another section is about 500 years old, so generations of people have been living in that area and painting on that wall."
Many commenters encouraged Metchooyeah to report his findings and pointed him in the right direction to do so.
He tweeted the pictures to several park authorities, eventually getting a response from Alberta Parks, who requested more information on the incident.
Just recently he got a call from a constable who assured him they were pursuing several avenues of investigation, requesting a written statement and asking if he'd be willing to testify in court if need be.