Dennis Wheeler

Dennis Wheeler (1948-1977) was a Vancouver-born writer and filmmaker who studied Art History and English at the University of British Columbia. He became an integral part of Vancouver's art community during the late 1960s, with writing and criticism that was published in artscanada, Grape, and The Georgia Straight.

In 1975 he collaborated with Gloria Cranmer Webster of the 'Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, British Columbia to direct the film POTLATCH...a strict law bids us dance. The film explored the history of the potlatch, which was banned by the Canadian Government in 1884. The documentary is narrated by Gloria Cranmer Webster, whose father Dan Cranmer held a large potlatch on Village Island in December 1921. The Government learned about it and arrested 45 participants, seizing sacred objects and regalia from some, and sentencing 22 of the participants to jail terms.

Created for the U'mista Cultural Centre, members of the 'Namgis First Nation had complete editorial control of this work to tell the story as they wished it be told. This form of respectful collaboration was unique for the time and set a new bar for settlers collaborating with indigenous people in the filming of their histories.

Wheeler collaborated with Nancy Holt on the video Revolve in 1976 and died of leukemia in 1977 at the age of 29.

Films by Dennis Wheeler