In the autumn of 1945, Standard Oil sent Parks to Yellowknife, a mining town in Canada’s Northwest Territories that had undergone a significant population surge since the beginning of World War II. The assignment seemed straightforward: Parks was to make a pictorial record of the production and consumption of petroleum in Yellowknife over the course of several months. But when his plane from Ontario arrived on the frozen airfield, the situation quickly changed. Parks was greeted by a snowstorm, the local Standard Oil representative, and a slender native man named Jocko who was to serve as guide. After showing Parks the lay of the land, Jocko invited him to the Indian reservation to meet his tribe, part of the Dene people. Parks was the first Black man the natives had seen, and they were interested in why white men treated him with such honor and respect. For his part, Parks saw parallels between his experience of discrimination in the United States and the conditions these native people faced in Canada. He also recognized that they needed help. The questions they asked were difficult: How could they get white men to offer the better work? Better schools and education, Parks told them. How could their sick obtain the medical attention they so badly needed? Knowing that the only solution was immediate access to a hospital, Parks returned to his hotel and called his program director. Parks and Stryker arranged for $3,000 to be wired to Yellowknife, thus allowing some of the sick children to go to a clinic in Ottawa. Hoping to assist the people further, Parks arranged for Standard Oil to send $10,000 to fi nance proper schooling for the brightest local children. To show their appreciation for his kindness and generosity, the tribe sent Parks ten feathers from the headdress of the chief and named a lake in his honor.

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Untitled, Yellowknife, Canada, 1945