In June 2016, BC Hydro (British Columbia’s provincially-owned electric utility) opened a new exhibit at the W. A. C. Bennett Dam Visitor Centre. The Our Story, Our Voice gallery brought the hardships endured by the region’s First Nations citizens as a result of the fifty-year-old dam to light. A carefully crafted apology from BC Hydro’s Deputy CEO figured prominently in the gallery’s opening ceremony. But with a controversial new dam threatening the province’s last stretch of free-flowing Peace River, both the exhibit and the apology were deeply ironic. This article draws on my complex and contradictory experience at the exhibit’s opening ceremony to ground an exploration of irony’s analytical value: I examine the irony inherent in apologizing for past transgressions while perpetuating very similar new ones, investigate the exhibit itself as a paradoxical presentation, and acknowledge that my presence in British Columbia was possible because of a foundation established by a man—Axel Wenner-Gren—who was both an early proponent of damming the Peace River and an ethnographic enthusiast. Embracing reflexive attention to momentary, power-laden, and occasionally uncomfortable encounters with people, places, and evidence, I demonstrate how contemplating irony can serve as a compelling way to convert experience into understanding.

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