Posts By: Kelly Many Guns

Indspire Celebrates 25 Years

Inspire Celebrates 25 Years

Photographer Baz Kanda
Performance: STAR DANCERS by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre


 

The first National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 1993 were held to celebrate excellence in the Aboriginal community.

Those awards were televised and it was an exciting time for many First Nations, Metis and Inuit people because they were seeing themselves for the very first time being recognized and honoured in a first class ceremony.

Since then the awards were changed to the Indspire Awards and have been hosted in cities across the country with this year’s ceremony being held in Winnipeg for the third time.

This year’s theme for the awards ceremony was, “Indigitropolis, Where Language Lives,” which came from the vision of Indigenous language reclamation and revitalization.

The Indspire Awards Ceremony program reads, “When it comes to Indigenous language, there are many layers, but at the centre of the conversation is a striking reality: Indigenous People across Kanata have witnessed the near extinction of their languages since the dawn of the Residential School era(s).”

This impacted community well-being, sense of self and identity. This is why the movement of Indigenous language reclamation and revitalization is essential if our communities are going to thrive.

The goal was to create a show that embodied the essence of, “Indigenous languages thriving.” To us, Indigitropolis is a place where Indigenous languages live and thrive. It is where Indigenous culture, ceremony and identity prosper, where everything in life is witnessed through an Indigenous world view. It is rural, it is urban, it is everywhere.

This year’s hosts were actors and comedians Darrell Dennis and Kyle Nobess. Performances included Cheri Maracle, Indian City, the Asham Stompers, Star Dancers, member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with choreographer and dancer Santee Smith.

Presenters included Dances with Wolves actress, Tantoo Cardinal, actor Johnny Issaluk and CBC Radio host of Unreserved, Rosanna DeerChild.

In the program, the awards committee said they were inspired by the neon signs on a skyline for the stage’s unique backdrop effect.

“We translated the words ‘Speak’ and ‘Language’ into nine Indigenous languages including Innuaimun, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Nisga, Michif, Ojibwe, Inuktitut, Dene and Plains Cree, and erected a skyline that embraced the entire stage to ensure that every performance, recipient reveal, and host introduction was being supported by language, identity, and indigeneity,” according to the awards committee.

The 2018 Indspire Awards will be televised on APTN and CBC in June, with the date to be announced in May.

First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues

First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues

Edmonton Oilers Recall Bear While Skating for AHL’s Bakersfield Condors

It was inevitable that Ethan Bear would be dressing to play with the Edmonton Oilers sooner than expected.

The Oilers 2015 draft pick played with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL), 2017 champion Seattle Thunderbirds where he earned the honor of being named the WHL 2017 top defensive player.

The WHL is the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. The league has 22 teams spanning Western Canada and the Northwest U.S.

Drafted in the fifth round and 124th overall, the 20-year-old, 5’11” 209-pound, rookie defenceman from the Ochapowace First Nation played his first National Hockey League game as an Edmonton Oiler on March 1st.  

Though the contest ended in a 4-2 loss against the Nashville Predators, Bear said suiting up as a NHL player was a dream come true.

“I love the game. It’s pretty amazing and the intensity, speed and playing with Edmonton, things could not be better,” said Bear.

The Edmonton Oilers recalled Bear from the American Hockey League (AHL), where he was playing in Southern California for Bakersfield Condors where he had 16 points (6G, 10A) and 12 penalty minutes in 34 games. The AHL is the NHL’s primary developmental league.

Bear played for Canada’s National Under-18 program twice, winning gold at the 2014 Hlinka Memorial and a bronze medal at the 2015 World U18 Men’s Hockey Championship in Switzerland.

Growing up, Bear never had a favourite team, but his favourite players were Jordin Tootoo, and Shane Webber.

“I never really had a favourite team, I just really followed hockey a lot, and played and loved the game, but I always rooted for the Canadian NHL teams, and Team Canada,” said Bear.

Bear faced the same challenges as all players who came before him when he began playing in the juniors. Among the greatest were being away from home at a young age and making the right choices.

“Making those sacrifices and learning to take care of your body, and learning to be a pro before you’re a pro,” Bear added to the list of challenges.

Bear said noticing other native players in the junior ranks was nice to see knowing Aboriginal players were a good thing for native people and their communities.

Family support is something Bear does not take for granted and knows it will be important through what he hopes will be a long NHL career.

In his first game as an Oiler, dozens of family, friends and supporters made the nine hour trip from his Saskatchewan home community and the Ochapowace First Nation.

Bear said giving back is something he strongly believes in. Each summer he runs a hockey camp back in his community – a camp for everyone.

“The hockey camp is for younger kids, and I approach it how I wanted to be taught when I was a kid,” said Bear. “It is all a part of giving back, and hope we can inspire future hockey NHL players.”

Bear said he feels comfortable as the newest Edmonton Oiler. “Just getting in, moving it and getting in your groove. You start to make plays and playing faster. It’s a simple game. You play simple, move it quick,” Bear said. “Offence will come. I still have a lot to learn defensively but they’ve been patient with me so I appreciate it.”

Through eight games, Bear has two assists and has been near the 20-minute mark in three of his last four contests.

In his last few games he’s been paired with defenseman Oscar Klefbom, a partnership Bear feels is working well.

“He’s always in the right spots,” said Bear. “Everyone’s always an option for you and talking to you on the ice. That makes a big difference, knowing where all your teammates are on the ice. They’re always talking and telling you your offence, calling out plays.”

Perhaps the first aspect of Bear’s game to rise to this level of professional play has been his passing, which is something Head Coach Todd McLellan has spoken about.

His teammates are also starting to realize there’s some potential with the 20-year-old.

“Very mobile, good skater,” said fellow defenceman, Klefbom. “I like playing with him. He’s going to be a very good defenceman, Obviously, it takes a while to get into the League and know what it’s all about. I remember when I came into the League and played an easy game and built that confidence to do something good with the puck. He’s definitely off to a good start here.”

Bear is a right-shot, offensively inclined defenceman, which is something the Oilers would like to add to their special teams arsenal.

Following practice before the team hit the road for Cowtown (Calgary), a local Edmonton reporter asked Bear about his participating in Battle of Alberta against the Calgary Flames for the first time.

A big smile came across his face and Bear showed excitement over his upcoming, first-ever experience.

“It’s a very intense rivalry, so I’m looking very forward to it,” Bear said. “Everybody always wants to beat Calgary, right?”

Growing up in Ochapowace, Saskatchewan Bear watched plenty of Battle of Alberta games and has a built-in understanding of what it means when orange and blue clashes with red and yellow.

“It’s a rivalry you want to be a part of and know how to get up for,” he said. “They’re pretty intense games, so I want to go out there and play hard.”

Edmonton head coach Todd McLellan said Bear is very optimistic about getting to play in Battle of Alberta after only a few games in the league.

“He’s getting there,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He’s certainly not hurting us a lot, but there are segments of his game he knows he has to work on. He’s a very fast learner, he’s willing to learn, he’s got a high IQ and he picks things up quickly, so we think he can continue to improve.”

First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues

 

Gone Flying

Cheri Royal of the Siksika Nation is looking forward to her new career as a flight attendant

Cheri Royal of the Siksika Nation is looking forward to her new career as a flight attendant

It was a chance for adventure that made school counselor Cheri Royal decide to change careers and begin training to become a flight attendant.

Prior to this, the Siksika Nation member had been working in the social science field for most of her adult life.

“I was a school counselor, and also had my own class, ran social clubs, coached and tutored elementary and junior high students,” said Royal, a 42 year old single mother. “I have also worked with many children and families by assisting them with supports to better help themselves.”

Royal said the thought of a career change was always in the back of her mind and working for the airline industry was an enticing opportunity.

“I didn’t really consider it until now because my children are all grown up,” said Royal. “Therefore, it gave me the opportunity to pursue it with my kids’ full support. Plus, I needed a change in my life. I needed adventure!”

Royal moved to Vancouver in October of last year to begin her eight month training program and earn a Flight Attendant Diploma with the Canadian Tourism College.

She said the intense training is a compilation of many disciplines: First Aid Level 2, firefighting, self-defense, traveling with a disabled person, leadership skills and food handling, which includes how to serve food properly.

“The most exhilarating part is learning how to prepare for a crash or ditch landing. The thought of this scenario is an adrenaline rush!” said Royal. “You don’t realize the problems an FA (Flight Attendant) has to deal with in all sorts of situations. We are being trained in every area because at 38,000 feet FAs are all the passengers have for help.”

Royal said she is looking forward to the traveling and being an ambassador of the sky.

“I think we need more Natives in the air, whether it be pilots or flight attendants,” said Royal. “It’s a great industry to get into and comes with many benefits.”

Royal discussed her family background and what keeps her grounded. “I am of Blackfoot descent. I come from a close-knit family and I am very blessed to have such an amazing family,” said Royal. “I love my community and the area I grew up in. I enjoyed my time there and became very resilient because of how I was raised. Mom and dad were always traveling, and me being the youngest of five, I was always with them. My dad was a very intelligent, creative, loving, kind and humble man. He had many people that looked up to him and helped anyone in need.  My mother is also very kind and gentle. If not for them and their love and support all my life, I don’t know where I’ll be. I have an older brother that I look up to now, he’s my role model my best friend. He has accomplished so much in his life and sets the bar high for me. The Siksika Nation has shaped me into who I am today. They are my people, my culture, and my identity. I enjoy Vancouver with all its’ possibilities.”

Royal will complete her training this May and is looking forward to her new career travelling the world and helping people enjoy their journey.

 

A True Water Protector


 
Though Autumn Peltier just turned 13-years-old, this young girl has already made quite the impact with her views on the environment, especially her passion for Canada’s water.

Autumn is from the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario and has been interested in the environment her entire life.

Her advocacy for protecting water began at 8-years-old when she entered a writing contest in her community.

Stephanie Peltier is Autumn’s mother, said Autumn entered and won a Odawa/Ojibwe language native speaking contest.

“She chose to write on ‘water’ and the essay was received well enough for her to win that contest,” said Stephanie Peltier, who works full time with Raising the Spirit Mental Wellness Program. “From there, she won another writing contest, which eventually caught the attention of organizers of the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, where she was invited to attend.”

Peltier says she is very proud of what her daughter is accomplishing and supports her 100 percent.

“She is very deserving of it. This is her passion. She is always writing about water and the environment,” said Peltier. “Like the other day, I asked her, ‘Do you mind me asking what you’re writing about?’ and Autumn said, ‘I just had a thought and an idea, and I want it write it down.’”

As a parent, Peltier says the attention her daughter is receiving is overwhelming, but her priorities are being balanced when it comes to Autumn. Of course Peltier does tell Autumn there are people out there who do not share the same views as hers.

“She does not have access to social media, so she’s not fully aware of the impact she is creating,” said Peltier. “I want to steer her away from some of the negative comments that some people post on social media, and at the same time share with her the positive feedback.”

Autumn was eight years old when she gave her first speech about the universal right to clean drinking water. Since then, she has worked as an advocate for protecting natural water resources.

Her efforts include working toward the treaty signing against the expansion of oil sands to lobbying world leaders for water protection at the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden.

Autumn is now in the running for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is the only Canadian up for the prestigious award where the top ten finalists will be chosen November 10th. Then, on December 4th, the Peace Prize will be awarded to the winner in Amsterdam,
Netherlands.


 

When I had the opportunity to chat with Autumn I learned she is an intelligent and well-spoken young girl, and asked for her thoughts on being considered for the Peace Prize.

“If I do win the award, I will use that as a platform to further educate people about the current state of water and continue my advocacy on the issues of water and environment protection,” Autumn said. “When I think about how polluted the water is, I think of future generations. Will they even have clean drinking water? Water is alive and has a spirit, and like water is so sacred.”

Autumn also spoke about meeting Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

“I was only supposed to present him with the water bundle as a gift,” said Autumn. “But at that moment when I met him, I took the opportunity to tell him that I was very unhappy about the broken promises he has made towards our people and discouraged about the pipeline and how unsafe they are towards our environment.”

Autumn said that the Prime Minister told her, “I understand that and I will protect the water.”

Autumn said her 8th grade classmates at Waase Abin Pontiac School watch her sometimes on livestream and they support and share her views on protecting the water. Autumn said she is grateful for their support.

Among her many accomplishments, she recently addressed the Assembly of First Nations and told the First Nation leaders her sadness over the state of water, not only in Canada, but around the world.

Autumn is the middle sister of three. Her older sister is named Naomi and is 19. Her younger sister is Ciara, and she is 11.

Autumns’s favourite subjects are literature and mathematics, and she plans to attend law school and study political science.

“My dream one day is to be AFN National Chief and Minister of Environment,” said Autumn.

The Road Forward—A Film Receiving Rave Reviews for Its Honesty and Compelling History

The Road Forward is a powerful musical documentary by creator and filmmaker Marie Clements about the Native Brotherhood of BC and their struggles and tribulations to get their voice heard. The film has received rave reviews after sold-out screenings at Vancouver’s York Theatre.

The Road Forward

The Road Forward


 

The Native Brotherhood of the BC formed in the 1930s when it was illegal for native people to meet in a gathering or group. The Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood of BC were powerful organizations working towards the same cause. They brought the First Nations together as one.

This Aboriginal Blues and Rock-n-Roll film takes viewers on the journey of the struggles and determination of the characters as they fight for their Native Rights being oppressed by the government. Filmmaker Marie Clements said in the North Shore News she thought it was important to celebrate the investment needed to create change and the ensuing victories because Aboriginal people need to celebrate these as they don’t often read about Indigenous victories and celebrations.

“We don’t often hear about it, and also I think it’s important to look at issues that we’re still dealing with in a truthful way, a contemporary way,” said Marie Clements.

Clements first thought of the idea to create the film when she came across an issue of the The Native Voice – a newspaper that began publishing in the 1940s and became the official voice of the Native Brotherhood of BC. The newspaper served as the platform for the Native Brotherhood to promote their issues and voice their concerns from a native perspective.

The film educates viewers on heroes many are unfamiliar with, and offers a compelling insight and wonderful narration about events that have affected Aboriginal people. These include the Right to hunt, discrimination, the protection of Aboriginal language and culture, residential schools, the Constitution Express, the White Paper, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Behind the scenes – Indian Man
Photo: © Rosamond Norbury


 

In the scene where Cheri Maracle leaves home to find work, she faces the brutal reality of the 1940s for an Aboriginal woman. She experiences racism, job refusal because of her skin colour and is unable to even check into a hotel until an unexpected stroke of kindness and opportunity. The Road Forward honours those who came before and created positive change while recognizing issues like the Murdered Indigenous Woman that still need to be resolved.

The cast includes actors, singers and narrations by Michelle St John, Russell Wallace, Cheri Maracle, Thomas Berger, Evan Adams, Leonard George, Doreen Manual, and more.

Clements has created a powerful film that must be seen to understand struggles, victories, and legacies Aboriginal people faced in the past and still confront today. Find more information on The Road Forward at WideAwake.nfb.ca

Upcoming Screenings:

  • Saturday, September 30, 5pm. The Civic Theatre 719 Vernon Street Nelson BC
  • Monday, October 16, 5pm. AGH BMO World Film Festival, Hamilton ON
  • Theatrical Release at Winnipeg Cinematheque on Saturday, October 21, 3pm; Friday, October 27, 7pm; Saturday, October 28, 7pm; and Sunday, October 29, 3pm.
  • Sunday, October 22, imagineNATIVE Closing Gala, Toronto ON
  • Tuesday, November 21, Port Hardy Civic Centre, 7440 Columbia Street, Port Hardy BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Gate House Theatre, 11-1705 Campbell Way, Port McNeill, BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON
  • Friday, November 29, Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square Edmonton, AB
  • Friday, January 19, 2018, 7:30pm, Eden Mills & District Community Club, 104 York Street, Eden Mills, ON

First Lady Hoop Dancing Championships

This past August 26th, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships were held and the event was a huge success. The first competition of its kind, ever, included 42 dancers from the United States and Canada. The one-day event consisted of two rounds to determine the ladies hoop dancing champion.

(Right to left) Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation and Sandra Yellow Horn of the Piegan Nation

(Right to left) Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation and Sandra Yellow Horn of the Piegan Nation


 

Sandra Yellow Horn of the Peigan Nation won first place at the inaugural competition, while Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation took the runner-up trophy. The event was held at “This is The Place Heritage Park” in Salt Lake City, Utah,

I had a chance to ask Violet John, former Miss Indian World 2006, about the competition and her thoughts on hoop dancing. John said she was happy to see this competition take place because it will draw attention to women in hoop dancing.

Violet John prepares her daughter for competition

Violet John prepares her daughter for competition

“It’s very rare to see female hoop dancers and to have this first ladies hoop dancing competition is so good for the women and young girls to get involved in this beautiful dance,” said Violet. “Three of my daughters are hoop dancers and this event will only encourage them and other young girls to start dancing in the future. It was so nice to travel to Salt Lake City and compete here.”

Hoop dancing has a long-standing tradition. This unique dance can involve the use of more than 50 hoops. Hoop dancing communicates individual and tribal stories using hoops to create symbols and depict animals or other life found in nature. The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and change of seasons.

It is not clear which tribe founded traditional hoop dancing because many tribes have a history of the practice in various ceremonies. Traditional hoops were made from wood of a willow tree, whereas modern-day hoops are made from reed and plastic because of the durability of the material when travelling.

The hoops are then decorated with tape and paint to symbolize the changing colours of each season. Traditional hoops are still used on rare occasions. Native hoop dancing is traditionally a male-only dance, but over the past few decades women have picked up the dance. In 1994, Jackie Bird from South Dakota became the first woman to compete in the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.

Future Hoop Dancing Champion

Future Hoop Dancing Champion


 

Saanii Atsitty, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships organizer says judges are looking at precision, timing, rhythm, craftsmanship, creativity and originality. For the ladies’ competition judges also look at grace and elegance. The two rounds of competition for the ladies consisted of 5 minutes and 7 minutes in the final round dancing to Northern Drum, White Bull, and Southern Drum, Southern Soul Singers.

“I think the first go-round went well and created great interest and excitement,” said Atsitty, organizer of the hoop dancing competition. “We are glad to create a space and platform for these beautiful women and girls to showcase their dancing. We are looking forward to the 2nd Annual next year.”

Maori All Blacks to Invade BC Place Stadium, Play Against Host Team Canada


 

The Maori All Blacks is one of the most successful sporting team in any sport. The New Zealander rugby team has a winning percentage higher than the likes of Manchester United and Golden State Warriors.

On August 10, Rugby Canada and the New Zealand Rugby Union announced they will host the second ever Senior Men’s Fifteen match at BC Place with Canada taking on the world-famous Maori All Blacks.

Presented by AIG, as both teams prepare for their respective November Internationals in Europe, the All Blacks will play the Canadian men’s rugby team at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on November 3.

In the past four years, ten of the Maori All Black players progressed to play for the New Zealand national team – winners of the last two Rugby World Cups – while 18 have “bounced” between the two teams at various times. Twenty countries compete in the Rugby World Cup tournament, which is one of the world’s biggest sporting event outside of North America.

The All Blacks have been a YouTube sensation with their “Haka” traditional war dance – a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Before every game, the All Blacks perform the traditional Maori war dance the New Zealand natives used before going into battle. The dance is also used as a form of respect when groups come together in peace.

The All Blacks have defeated teams with players from different nations – international opponents – including the British & Irish Lions, a team with players from England and Ireland.

Look forward to our next issue when we speak to representatives of both the All Blacks and the Canadian Men’s Rugby teams.


 

Aboriginal Centres Help Students Succeed

As the weeks draw closer to the first day of class at universities and colleges across the country, we look at services provided to Aboriginal students. I had the chance to connect with Sarah Noel, the communication officer/recruitment and communications for the University of Sudbury, and she shared information on the assistance provided by their institution.

University of Sudbury-Aboriginal Centre

University of Sudbury-Aboriginal Centre


 

“The are many services the University of Sudbury provides Aboriginal students offering cultural, academic and individual support. Such services include the department of Indigenous Studies; a lounge for Indigenous students; access to Traditional Resource People; and a student group called Indigenous Student Circle, to name a few,” Noel said.

Noel said as members of the Laurentian Federation, students can access services offered by the Indigenous Student Affairs office as well as the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Center located at Laurentian University. Programs and courses are also offered by the University of Sudbury directly onsite or via video-conferencing in the communities of the James Bay Coast, which include Moose Factory, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan.

“The University of Sudbury is dedicated to making education financially accessible by providing numerous scholarships, bursaries and awards to their students. Among the financial aid available is bursaries, scholarships and awards specifically for Indigenous students,” said Noel.

The unveiling of the University of Sudbury’s arbor, Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg (where Indigenous Knowledge is), will take place on Thursday, September 14, which is soon after classes resume. Noel said Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg will be a place to sit with your ancestors, seek the wisdom of elders, receive teachings and explore your place within creation and share in peace, understanding and thoughtful contemplation. The arbor will be available for class time, workshops, ceremonies, teachings and other gatherings.

I asked Noel if she thought these kind of services for Aboriginal students helped them with their studies in terms of giving a sense of belonging, to inspiring them to achieve their program goals.

“Yes, these kinds of services definitely help in giving Indigenous students a sense of belonging. The University of Sudbury provides a safe, inclusive, supportive and nurturing academic environment that allows students to reach their goals,” said Noel.

Noel added she definitely feels Aboriginal Centres are a welcoming place that provides guidance and supports for student success on both a personal and academic level.

“Providing an atmosphere of identity, a place of belonging and being connected with one another eases the transition between home, community and school, and significantly enhances Indigenous culture and way-of-life,” said Noel.

As a former student of Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, I would most definitely agree with Noel that Aboriginal Centres gives students a sense of belonging and encouragement. When I attended Grant MacEwan from 1999 to 2002, I completed the Native Communications Program, aka, NCP, and the Journalism Diploma Program.

Relying on the Aboriginal Centre as a place to go and study, chat with other students and counsellors and experience positive vibes, and sometimes gain inspiration, I remember on many occasions chatting with then Grant MacEwan University Aboriginal Centre counsellor Jane Woodward, who was a great person to speak with and always had encouraging words, making it easier to finish that next assignment.

I have spoken with many former students and they all agree post-secondary institutions need both Aboriginal Centres and their services. In our next issue we’ll look at new programs that are in development, like Alberta announcing a $665,000 grant to train Indigenous language teachers.

For more information visit www.usudbury.ca

Blackfoot Actor Embracing International Recognition for Role in ‘Wonder Woman’

Cast of Wonder Woman
 

Eugene Brave Rock is the Blackfoot actor from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta, who is enjoying world-wide recognition for his role as “Chief,” a.k.a. “Napi,” in Wonder Woman, one of the highest grossing films of 2017. I had the chance to talk with Brave Rock and discuss how his latest role has given him international recognition, including a recent “Headdress Honour Ceremony” bestowed upon him by his own First Nation.

First, we have to include some of his film and TV acting accomplishments like The Revenant, Big Thunder TV series, Blackstone, Tin Star, Klondike and Timeless. Originally, Brave Rock began work in the industry as a movie and TV stuntman but has embraced his acting chops and grown into a fine actor.

The role as “Chief” in the DC Universe Wonder Woman came out-of-the-blue when he was on vacation and his agent contacted him to audition for a role at Warner Brothers studios. When Brave Rock asked his agent details on the part he was told the studio would give him the lines for the character when he arrived in Hollywood for his first reading.

This would be his first film audition with a major Hollywood studio and Brave Rock said he was a bit excited. Not knowing for which film he was reading made the experience even more nerve-wracking.

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as The Chief

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as “The Chief”

“I was pretty overwhelmed. I was going to the Warner Brothers studios,” Brave Rock said. “I totally blanked when I read off the script and I thought, ‘Oh well, I screwed that one up.’”

Casting told him he “nailed it” in the audition. Brave Rock said he was surprised they would say that. “Well, I thought, ‘Oh, they were just being nice and that’s probably the last I would hear from them,’” said Brave Rock.

It turned-out Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins liked something in Brave Rock and a second audition was requested and he was offered the role.

“I was completely shocked that I got the role. I then asked what the role was for but they would not initially tell me because it was ‘top secret,’” said Brave Rock.

Eventually he was told he would be “Chief” in the upcoming movie version of Wonder Woman, but that he couldn’t tell anyone he landed the role in the big budget film, not even his wife.

Brave Rock said he enjoyed working with Gal Gadot, the actor who landed the coveted role as the Amazon Princess turned Wonder Woman.

“You know she was amazing, down-to-earth, and it’s so nice to see someone in that position to be just one of the guys and spend time with all the actors; the whole cast had such an awesome time and there was a lot of good vibes on set during filming,” said Brave Rock.

Filming took over seven months in England and other locations in Europe, with four months of straight shooting. Brave Rock says he flew over the Atlantic Ocean ten times to re-shoot scenes but there were no complaints as he enjoyed the process. Plus, he wanted to get his character performance right.

In the film, when Wonder Woman and Chief first meet one another, they talk to each other in the Blackfoot language – Brave Rock’s traditional language and the original language of over 40,000 Blackfoot people from the Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Peigan Nation, and from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. It was the director’s idea to introduce Chief in his Blackfoot language and they both agreed they did not want to stereotype the character even though growing up, when someone called Brave Rock “Chief,” he said “those were fighting words.”

Blackfoot is the only non-English language not subtitled in the film as it is purposely left-out by director Jenkins for dedicated fans to uncover. It didn’t take long. Certain viewers revealed that during their introductions Chief introduced himself as “Napi,” a Blackfoot demi-god.

Napi is the culture hero of the Blackfoot tribe (sometimes referred to as a “transformer” by folklorists). He is a trickster, a troublemaker, and sometimes a foolish person, but he is also responsible for shaping the world the Blackfoot live in and frequently helps the people. Brave Rock revealed on his Twitter that Napi was an actual part of the script.

Is this a big deal? Of course it is. Not only for the character, but also for the overall DC Universe (DCU). It means several things. For starters, it means that Greek Gods are not the only “real” mythological deities in the DCU. Just like in the comics, there are several pantheons out there.

Second, it means that as a demi-god, Chief is ageless, much like Wonder Woman, and could show-up again in a future Wonder Woman film, or maybe another part of the DCU.

In a compelling scene, Wonder Woman asks Chief why he isn’t fighting on either side of the war and Chief replies he doesn’t have anything to fight for. When Wonder Woman asks about that, Chief says that Steve’s people (the white man) took it all from him.

In Hollywood, First Nation people are often portrayed as one of three stereotypes: the savage, Pocahontas, or, the medicine man. However the film industry is beginning to embrace a new kind of First Nation character: authentic, real and still here. Films like Smoke Signals, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Fast Runner are embracing the authentic First Nations people. Chief in Wonder Woman is just the beginning.

When asked for the most challenging part of the role, Brave Rock said the role itself was not challenging because he enjoyed every minute of the production, but then added, “The most challenging part was being away from my family; I missed the birth of my son. The attack in Paris, that was a bit scary and tough.”

Brave Rock has always wished to one day be an actor and starring in this blockbuster is something special to him.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid on the reserve to be an actor. There are so many stories of our culture that we can share,” Brave Rock said. “I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ve lived in Forest Lawn (Calgary neighbourhood), Bannock Street in Lethbridge, and of course Kainai (Blood Tribe).”

Now the question is: Will the franchise decide to bring back the character of Chief in Wonder Woman 2 or any other DCU production? This is a question Brave Rock couldn’t answer since there is so much secrecy involved with a sequel.

As for the future, Brave Rock will be in post-production as a stunt performer in an upcoming film. He is enjoying the amazing response to Wonder Woman and how it has ignited his acting career.

“I will take every opportunity that is there, there are so many stories out there,” said Brave Rock.

Angry Inuk: Looking into Impacts of Seal Hunt Bans

In 1983, after animal activists groups like Green Peace were able to convince the European Union to ban products made from whitecoat harp seal pups, everything changed for the worst for Inuit people in the Canadian arctic. If that wasn’t enough, yet another ban in 2009 by the European Union caused even more hardship for the Inuit people who rely on their seal hunt to sustain their livelihood, their culture and economy.

“Angry Inuk,” a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, enlightens viewers by providing background on the reality behind the anti-seal hunt demonstrations and those using whitecoat harp seal pups as their slogan. By portraying the helpless baby white seal as their poster darling, animal activists have been able to, time and again, convince world governments and the public that hunting seals is “evil and cruel” and unnecessary.

Arnaquq-Baril is narrator for the compelling documentary, which was filmed over a seven-year period beginning in the spring of 2008. The film shows the pristine landscape of the Nunavut Territory in the Canadian Arctic and looks into the Inuit people and their way of life. It explains how the seal hunt is so much a fundamental part of Inuit culture.

In one scene, Aaju Peter, a seal skin designer and a lawyer for Inuit Seal Hunting Rights, is admiring a picture of two children with their faces smeared with seal blood while enjoying eating seal. Peter explains, “To other people, this probably looks scary. But to us, this is cute.”

After the 1983 seal hunt ban was imposed, most Inuit people had no choice but to move away from their traditional grounds and into town because the price of seal skin completely crashed. Most Inuit had to find odd jobs creating carvings and perform whatever other jobs they could find. But the Inuit still had to hunt seal for food.

Arnaquq-Baril said the 1983 ban was their “Great Depression” as it was a life altering event for the Inuit. Within a year of the ban the suicide rate spiked even higher and has risen to rank among the highest globally ever since.

“Suicide was once a rare thing in the Inuit community. As a result of traumas from residential school abuse, forestry relocation, and other destructive government policies, Inuit people began taking their lives at alarming rates,” narrates Arnaquq-Baril in “Angry Inuk.” “In 1983 it was yet another layer of stress on our communities causing widespread hunger and hardships.”

In 2009, the filmmaker followed a group of Inuit representative who traveled to the European Union Parliament to voice their opinion on banning the seal hunt. The viewer will see their efforts were futile and did not change world leaders’ minds on the vote.

“Angry Inuk” is a film worth watching and may even change your thoughts on the Seal Hunt Ban lobbied for by Green Peace – an organization responsible for successfully implanting the erroneous image of the “evil and killing of the baby white seal” in the minds of those not educated to the facts of Inuit life.