Topic: ARTS

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.

The Drum is Calling Festival

This is one event you don’t want to miss! The Drum is Calling Festival is a one of a kind, once in a lifetime event, providing an opportunity for everyone to celebrate Vancouver’s three Host Nations. Saturday July 22 celebrate the opening of this Festival with a free pancake breakfast for the first 500 guests arriving at Larwill Park (688 Cambie + Georgia).

The City of Vancouver, the world’s first official City of Reconciliation, has created the Drum is Calling Festival in partnership with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. This 9-day festival will feature cultural traditions, traditional and cutting-edge arts, music, dance, film, poetry, PowWow, and much more.

Highlighting the festival will be stellar performances from iconic artists such as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, northern Ontario rockers Midnight Shine, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Starr, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long.

Additional highlights will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata Festival on Turtle Island. The inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitton. The show will feature the consolidated and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling. While Having Soup is a powerful installation in which over the amount of time it takes to consume a bowl of soup, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Vancouverites will engage in a “three-course” dialogue about charged issues during Canada 150+.

There will be hands-on workshops, and live programming inside the site including Theatre for Young People presented by Shaw Communications Inc., carving and weaving workshops, play readings, curated short films by the National Film Board, From Oral to Written presented in partnership with Talonbooks and the Vancouver Writers Fest and the best of authentic Indigenous artisans, vendors and food. Exhibition games and a Basketball tournament will be taking place in adjacent streets. A spectacular night of intercultural drumming will ignite the thunderous power of dancers and drummers from around the world and is led by renowned percussionist and cultural collaborator Sal Ferraras.

Festivalgoers will experience something new every day. The artistic and cultural program will be in sync with the theme of each day, starting July 22 with 3-Host Nation Day, and followed up with Our Elders Day, Matriarch Day, 7 Generations – Youth Day Presented by Shaw Communications Inc., Warriors Day, Friendship Day, Gathering Our Relations Day, Transformation Day and closing the festival on July 30 with Intertribal In Action Day.

Oh, did I mention, all events are FREE! Taking place in the heart of downtown at Larwill Park, bounded by Cambie & Beatty streets and Georgia and Dunsmuir streets in downtown Vancouver, everyone is welcome. Those activities taking place at the Queen Elizabeth theatre and Vancouver Playhouse theatre require tickets. Tickets are free and links to register online are available at

Friends and families alike can share what we all have in common – our joys, fears, hopes and dreams through film, song, literature and dance.
For information and full schedule of events visit

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.

Just Announced Tanya Tagaq to perform at The Drum is Calling Festival this July

TANYA TAGAQ – photo by Katrin Braga

Playing to major festivals and packed houses all over the world you don’t want to miss

Experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq who will be headlining The Drum is Calling Festival on July 24 at Larwill Park. This award-winning Inuk throat singer released her latest album Retribution in 2016 and in 2014 won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album for Animism.


The City of Vancouver’s Canada 150+ signature event The Drum is Calling is a nine-day, immersive festival of Indigenous and diverse arts and culture. Highlighting the festival will be stellar performances from iconic artists such as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie who will be the opening headliner, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, northern Ontario rockers Midnight Shine, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Starr, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long.

For those drum lovers, a must-see will be a spectacular night of Drums over Salish Sea in July 27. This intercultural drumming will ignite the thunderous power of dancers and drummers from around the world and is led by renowned percussionist and cultural collaborator Sal Ferraras.

Artistic Program

Saturday July 22:        Bitterly Divine, Murray Porter, Buffy Sainte-Marie
Sunday July 23:           William Prince, Crystal Shawanda, Tom Jackson
Monday July 24:          Amanda Rheaume, Susan Aglukark,Tanya Tagaq
Tuesday July 25:          Shamik Bilgi, Boom Booms with Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Midnight Shine
Wednesday July 26:   Dj Kookum
Thursday July 27:        The Jerry Cans, Drums over the Salish Sea
Friday July 28:            Donny Parenteau, Sierra Noble, Chantal Kreviazuk
Saturday July 29:        George Leach, Kinnie Starr, DJ Shub
Sunday July 30:           Leonard Sumner, Leela Gilday, Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

Attendees can expect much more than just music; additional highlights will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata Festival on Turtle Island. While Having Soup is a powerful installation in which over the amount of time it takes to consume a bowl of soup, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Vancouverites will engage in a “three-course” dialogue about charged issues during Canada 150+.


As part of the festival, the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week will feature the super-stars and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling. The show is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitton.

Other forms of art will include carving exhibitions, curated short films by the National Film Board, Theatre for Young people presented by Shaw Communications Inc., and From Oral to Written presented in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest.


Artistic Director Margo Kane and the curators have themed each day, so festival-goers will experience something new at every return visit. From honouring our Host Nations to Elders and Matriarch to Youth, Warriors, and Friends, the themes bring together cultural presentations such as theatre, play readings, carving and weaving workshops, literary and speaker series, and film screenings. The best of authentic Indigenous artisans, vendors and food will be on site to nourish your mind, body, and soul.

The Festival’s main venue Larwill Park will feature a festival zone with stages, food and craft vendors, exhibits and more. Activities and performances will also take place at adjacent streets and plazas, including other venues such as Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse Theatre.

Events are free however some indoor venues may require advance registration. For more information on these events and programming for Celebration 150+ please visit the website at

NIMIIWE: First Nations Roots and Traditions Inspire Dance Production Ready for World Premiere

By Kelly Many Guns

Native Earth Performing Arts presents NIMIIWE, an Indigenous dance double bill featuring Brian Solomon’s ‘The NDN Way’ and Margaret Grenier and Karen Jamieson’s ‘Light Breaking Broken’. The production is going to premiere at AKI Studio in Toronto from March 30th to April 1st, 2017.

First Nations Drum spoke with both Solomon and Grenier about their productions, discovering that their dance performances feature similar back-stories about keeping traditional cultures alive through contemporary movement.

Brian Solomon

Brian Solomon

Solomon – Anishinaabe/Irish background – first envisioned what would become ‘The NDN Way’ when he first heard Cindy Bisaillon’s award-winning 1974 CBC documentary ‘The Indian Way’.

“I was friends with Cindy Bisaillon’s daughter, and she mentioned this interview that was done back in 1974,” said Solomon. “So I listened to the cassette tape, and I was blown away with what I was hearing. I told myself, ‘man, this needs to be rescued from the past’.”

‘The Indian Way’ was comprised of an interview with a young Métis-Cree man from Northern Saskatchewan, Ron Evans, who was a teacher/philosopher living in Toronto.

“He spoke so incredibly about the Cree culture, philosophies, and traditional ways, and his explanation of the life cycle in 60-minutes is something astonishing to me. I’ve never heard anyone speak this way,” said Solomon. “From that interview you get a good sense that the language was different then, there’s none of this ‘politically correct’ jargon that we have today. We were called ‘Indian’ back then.”

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Solomon says one thing that caught his attention during the interview was when Evan’s said that “… the white culture is running away from death, while the Indian are running towards death and are constantly preparing for death.”

It is Evans way of thinking and speaking that inspired Solomon to bring those thoughts and visions to ‘The NDN Way’.

Solomon says he studied as a visual artist. He usually begins with one big moving picture when starting a piece, and often incorporates storytelling.

“I grew up in the northern bush, and not with a lot of traditional teachings. But since I moved to the city at age 17, I’ve found that a lot of young people still carry the spirit of their traditional roots – within their everyday lives, inside concrete walls, in the city they live in.”

Solomon will take his audience through a brilliant synthesization of Cree belief structures, using it as an ‘atmospheric departure point’ from which a full visual and visceral world is created. Solomon re-imagines, remixes, and interprets these philosophies about medicine, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, and death in a highly theatrical, visual art-warp, using the original grainy tape as part of the soundscape.

Margaret Grenier

Margaret Grenier

Grenier – Gitxsan and Cree background – talked about how she developed ‘Light Breaking Broken’, which is a creative collaboration with Chalmers Award winning dance artist Karen Jamieson. These women are Vancouver-based contemporary dance artists who identify and draw upon radically different cultural traditions and protocols.

The work explores the subject of light breaking through ignorance, and the paradox of ‘broken’ from different perspectives. ‘Light Breaking Broken’ is the personal journey of two artists reconnecting with language, culture, and identity, honouring the past while locating itself in the creative present.

“I have a long history with Karen, I am happy about this duel collaboration,” said Grenier. “I am a trained traditional coastal dancer and use this form within my performances.”

Grenier says the story of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ was inspired from the potlatches 70-year ban, which was finally lifted in 1951.

Karen Jamieson

Karen Jamieson

First Nations in BC were not allowed to practice any form of the ceremony. The federal government felt that the process of assimilation was not progressing with adequate speed. In response, the Canadian government passed amendments to the Indian Act in 1884. First Nations chiefs used potlatches to pass down names, songs, dances, and rights from one generation to the next. Both males and females participated in potlatch ceremonies.

The potlatch was also a time when wealth was distributed throughout the community. The potlatch displayed the wealth of the chief to his communities and guest communities. In these times, though, wealth was not based on the European concept of how much one had accumulated. Instead, it was an Aboriginal concept based on how much a hosting chief or family could give to guests during the potlatch, and how much hospitality was shown to guests.

“When the potlatches ban was finally lifted, a lot of the elders had lost some of the traditional cultures. They could not really teach, or hand down those teachings and beliefs,” explains Grenier. “In many ways, this was a broken period of our history.”
Grenier says she would like audiences to envision that her and Jamieson are having a conversation through their dance performance, and envision the story of the return of the potlatch.

“This production expresses my identity, and who I am,” said Grenier.

The 40-minute performance of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ uses video and production with the concept of light.

Audiences attending the NIMIIWE will be in for a great visual and dance performance experience.

A Interview with A Tribe Called Red’s Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau

by Hannah Many Guns

Conducted via a phone-call on November 20th, 2016.

Q: What are the Nations that make up A Tribe Called Red?

A: “I am Anishinaabe from Nipissing. Ojibiway is what I identify as. Tim (2oolman) is a Six Nations Mohawk. Bear Witness is of the Cayuga. Our cultures within A Tribe Called Red are completely different – everything’s different. That definitely brings a lot of perspective, and a lot of different ideas to the table.”

Q: Is there a specific First Nation’s language used in your songs, or does it vary?

A: “It varies with the drum we’re using. The drums that we are using a lot are from Blackbear, who are Atikamekw. They’re a super dope group from Northern Quebec, four hours away from Montréal. So yeah, we use the languages of the drum that we sample.”

A Tribe Called Red’s Album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’

Check out A Tribe Called Red’s Album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’, delving into deep-rooted issues using the medium of modern dance music.


Q: Other than drums, is there any other traditional elements that go into constructing your music with an indigenous framework?

A: “Oh yeah. Over the past couple of year on our tours, we’ve been compiling material,” Campeau is audibly enthusiastic about this, and begins telling me a story.

“We went to Norway and played a festival called Riddu Riđđu, an all indigenous, global music festival. It’s, like, not massive. We’ve played massive festivals, and this one wasn’t very big, but it’s definitely one of my favorites where it was all indigenous people. We got to sit and hang out in Sami country, with Sami people. There were Tuvan throat singers, Greenland and Inuit people, we were there, and all kinds of other people.

“One of the people we met there was Maxida Marak, who is a Sami artist from Sweden. We got to record her traditional singing, which is called ‘Joik’. Their Joik’s – or their songs – are used to lead their reindeer herds. Reindeer herding is a part of their traditional way of living. So yeah, we got to record her Joik in Norway.” This recording can be hear on the A Tribe Called Red song ‘Eanan’.

“And then we got to record our friend Stew from the band Oka in Melbourne. He’s indigenous from Australia.” You can listen to their collaboration on the A Tribe Called Red Song song ‘Maima Koopi’. “It’s really cool to be able to record and sample indigenous singing, and indigenous instruments from their home – you know what I mean? Like recording Sami artists IN Norway; recording the didgeridoo IN Australia. It was really cool, and really important. I think that shines through on the record [We Are The Halluci Nation] a lot.”

I comment on how cool it was that they used indigenous music from all over the world, and not just Canada.

“Oh yeah. And travelling all over the world was very empowering in a way of realizing that we are not alone. We’re not alone, not in just our struggles, but even in a lot of our ceremonies. That was really eye-opening for me, travelling as far away from home as I possibly can – without leaving the planet – and seeing people doing smudging ceremonies. Seeing people do call-and-response songs that reminded me of Iroquois social songs.

“I knew we were going to connect on this colonial, oppressive history. All three of us, North American indigenous, Sami indigenous, and Australian indigenous, have gone through a type of residential school system. We’re all currently protesting against pipelines. It’s so empowering to know that we’re all going through this. In Canada, we don’t have a place to go back to. Like, when racist people say, ‘oh, go back to your country’, like, we don’t have a homeland. Our homeland was taken over and somebody else lives here now. And you feel really alone. You feel really lonely when you don’t have that place anymore. But, going to other countries, and seeing that we’re not alone – that there’s other people going through this and feeling the same thing – it’s really empowering. It makes me realize that we’re not in this struggle alone. We do have people to reach out to that are going through the same thing, and that are able to discuss the solutions.”

Ian ‘DJ NDN’ Campeau, Anishinaabe from Nipissing

Ian ‘DJ NDN’ Campeau, Anishinaabe from Nipissing

Q: Why is electronica music the medium you use in order to express your culture?

A: “Thinking back on it now, it seemed to be the easiest transition from traditional music. Traditional music is also dance orientated. So that’s what we did, meshed up dance music with dance music. Making that bridge, I think it was really important, not only for non-indigenous people to experience or hear pow-wow music for – many of them – the first time, but on the other side, a lot of indigenous youths hearing electronic music for the first time – who never really had access to that sort of thing. I like being that bridge. There’s a lot of producers coming up within our community, and it’s extremely exciting to hear what they’re putting out.”

Q: How does the perspective of being an urban indigenous person live inside of your music?

A: “It’s because it’s uniquely from that perspective, and it’s from that perspective in a way that’s not done in a sad way. A lot of indigenous music that has shone through the community is typically oppressed music, like a lot of blues, a lot of country, a lot of rap. It comes from struggle music, which is totally understandable. We’ve come through a lot of struggle, and I understand that. But I think that playing music that is not like that, that is typically happy and more upbeat, gets people in a place where they’re not ready for a fight. Instead, we’re able to have a conversation in this place we’re everybody’s dancing and happy. Where there’s no finger-pointing, and it’s not in your face like on social media. Through art, it’s a much more laid-back approach.”

Q: What is the importance of being, or remaining happy, when talking about our indigenous issues? So many people are bitter when talking about the past.

A: “There’s a lot to heal. There’s a lot to know about what happened within Canada, what we call Canada, for it to exist. The decimation of indigenous people had to happen in order for Canada to exist as it does today. When we’re confronting a lot of these really hard reality’s, when we tell people these really hard realities, I think that having this conversation at a dance party is way easier to do. What we need to say, and what we need to get out there, is easier to do when you’re dancing. I think that’s something indigenous people knew a long time ago, and that’s why dancing is such an important part of our everyday life.”

Q: Why is it important for you to raise awareness on Mother Earth throughout your album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’?

A: “Oh man, Mother Earth – we’re all of the earth! There’s a process a long time ago that Bear [Witness] told me on how the indigenous people – the Red Nation – was going to remind the world, and the rest of humanity, how to be human beings again. We have a history. There’s an archaeologist who was hanging out on my rez and taking kids out for digs. He was telling me that there is archaeological proof that the Nipissing people, my people – and he was telling me this at my Mom’s house, while we’re sitting on that lake – that we’ve been living on that lake for 13,000 years. Like, there’s archaeological proof of it. So 13,000 years ago, the ice-age was over, the ice was receding, the melting camp was going up, and we followed up from the south,which destroys the barring strait theory.  Anyways, as we were coming up to the north, everything was getting uncovered from ice for hundreds of thousands of years. It took a long time for the tree’s and the vegetation that we see to come back. So on the scale, it showed as the tree’s were coming back – like as a timeline – and it was 6,000 years after we were there that the Maple Tree showed back up. Or showed up, I don’t even know if they were there before or what. But, like, that’s the symbol of Canada – the Maple Leaf. I’m 6,000 years older than your symbol on your flag. That is one of the most empowering moments that I’ve had. So when you look around at your 150 year anniversary next year, it kinda’ makes me, like, roll my eyes, you know what I mean? When I know that my history goes back 13,000 years.

“It gives me a lot of hope that all of this racism, this misogyny, the resource extraction without putting back, and the disruption of the natural laws is all brand new. It’s only 150 years old. So I think that we’re here to show that we’re meant to live within this. With this. We know how to live with this. That the idea of wilderness is a colonial idea. It wasn’t wild to us, it was very bountiful and it was very tame. So when people realized these things, it was home. It wasn’t wilderness, it wasn’t wild. It isn’t until we get these colonial ideas broken down that we can get that message out: that there’s other ideas of how to live, there’s other ideas of wealth.

“And I think that the smallest change in the idea of wealth will change everything. We have to change the idea of wealth from how much we can hoard and accumulate and keep away from other people, to how much we can help other people. Once we say, like ‘ hey, I grew more tomatoes, so I can give you as much as I have’, and that’s wealth. Why don’t we change it to that? That was an indigenous idea a long time ago. We have to make a change to these ideas, go back to the framework of 13,000 years ago. We can do it. All of this is brand new. All of these ideologies are brand new. We can change it. Coming from matriarchal societies, we are now living within a patriarchal society full of misogyny. This isn’t the way we lived for tens-of-thousands-of-years.

“So just getting back to your original question about representation of the earth, you know, Indigenous people believe that we are of the earth, and that we can’t live outside of that balance. Other people all over the world realize that too. So having, like, an Iraqi rapper saying the same thing, it just shows that we all understand. Again, this society that we live in within North America is brand new, and we can change it.”

Q: How do indigenous people define their identity, even when they’re off reserve and surrounded by western culture?

A: “Any way they want. It’s really funny, like, as an indigenous person, I want to be recognized as such. Even if I’m wearing my hoodie and a baseball cap, I’m still indigenous. You need to recognize that. Just because I’m not wearing buckskin and feathers all the time, it doesn’t mean that I’m not indigenous when I’m not doing that.

“It’s funny. Our time when we were in Europe playing a set, we’d have people, like, these European people, and they’ll will be upset with us. They’d say ‘I wish you’d play more of your music’. Then I’m like ‘well, we play, like, mostly our music’. Then they’re like ‘no, no, no, like more native music’, and I’m just like ‘if we make it, it’s native music’. So what they were saying is that they wanted to hear more pow-wow samples. But even when it doesn’t have pow-wow samples, the fact that we make it makes it indigenous music. It doesn’t have to have pow-wow in it to make it indigenous. Just because A Tribe Called Red made it, that’s what makes it indigenous.”

Yeah, you don’t have to put yourself in a box because you’re indigenous. It’s great to be traditional, but really –

“You can be whatever you want. Find your own way. It’s malleable, we don’t have to live in moulds. That’s a big thing within the indigenous community that we need to bring back. We never had these structures and such black and white ways of doing things. It wasn’t until the Indian Act showed up that the color of our skin mattered. It said ‘I’m white, you’re Indian, so this is what it is’. Race was legislated. People of color didn’t come up with slavery laws, with Jim Crowe laws, with the Indian Act. It was the hierarchy of race, and by white supremacy, that it was all legislated. That needs to be known, and a lot of people don’t know this. So listen, the Indian Act was not created by native people and enforced by native people. When you realize that the idea of white supremacy was what has been legislated, it will be easier to un-legislate it.”

Q: How do you think people should be going about taking that apart?

A: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. This is all very brand new, and it’s all super urgent. Like with these elections that just happened, things are scarier than ever.” I ask him what his views are on the US political election. “I understand that anything that has to do with North America doesn’t have to do with me. Any election, any government, anything that has to do with the well-being of North America, it doesn’t have to do with the well-being of indigenous people. Actually, it mostly has to do with the direct opposite of that. So I understand that the whole Trump process isn’t for me. That being said, I understand that it’s going to be really scary, and I have a lot of friends in Canada that are terrified. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I just don’t know. This is all so brand new.”

Q: What are your views on the peaceful protest our Brothers and Sisters are putting on down in the Standing Rock Sioux Nation?

A: “It’s incredible. Finally, FINALLY, people are starting to understand that our issues aren’t just indigenous issues, you know what I mean? Like water’s pretty important for humanity. And again, as indigenous people, we have to remind humanity on what it is to be human. Water’s important, we need this, guys. And so, as this protest is happening, solidarity protests are leading the news. It blows my mind that an indigenous issue would lead the news like that. I think that Trump is a direct response from non-indigenous people waking up to the plight that we’ve been talking about forever. It’s a direct reaction of Trump people trying to hold on to that white supremacy, and their ideas of capitalism.”

šxʷʔam̓ət (Home) – New Theatre Production will look at Reconciliation

by Kelly Many Guns

Since 1981, Theatre for the Living has been helping communities tell their stories through the expression of theatre. This year, director David Diamond and associate director Renae Morriseau will present šxʷʔam̓ət (Home) on March 3rd through to the 11th at the Firehall Arts Centre. It is hoped that audiences will find Home provocative and entertaining. This production is created and performed by an Indigenous and non-indigenous cast, and asks us to imagine what reconciliation really means.



I spoke with Diamond and asked him about Home.

“The play grows out of an organic process, and this is how Theatre for the Living works,” Diamond said. “The play will develop struggles, and it will try and try and answer what reconciliation means. I’ve been doing this work for a long time, and people’s perception of the world around us changes.”

If you want innovative theatre that is engaging and challenges your perceptions, than checking out Home would be it.

Theatre for the Living has a 36 year, multi-award winning history of creating cutting edge, interactive theatre that challenges perceptions and creates social change. With 11 performances slated, Home will weave stories based on real-life, and challenge the audience to make reconciliation real and honourable. When referring to reconciliation, Morriseau says that the deeper understanding we have, the better.

“The production sounds like it’s going to be heavy, but it will be a lot of fun and very interactive, only the subject is not.”

The title of the production, šxʷʔam̓ət (Home), is based on an hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (a local Indigenous dialect) word used to reference home. This word has so many different meanings to all of us who are living on this land.

The Theatre for the Living says there’s a conversation happening in Canada about reconciliation, and how it is manifesting action in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across this country. The City of Vancouver has officially declared that Vancouver sits on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. But what do these initiatives really mean? If we are sincere about the desire for reconciliation, what kinds of shifts in perceptions and behaviours need to take place? What is the pulse of change each of us are shaping? How do we break down the walls of colonization that surround us all? Is Reconciliation possible without respecting promises and guarantees made regarding Indigenous consent for projects on Indigenous land?

In šxʷʔam̓ət (home), the production will invite audiences to change the patterns of behaviour inside characters who are struggling with these issues – patterns that audience members may recognize inside themselves – and rehearse true reconciliation.

The cast will consist of seven original actors of Inuk, Cree, Okanagan, Ho-Cak, Snaw-Naw-As, and a range of diverse performers.

Diamond is the recipient of the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre in NY (2010), as well as the Mayor’s Arts Award for Community Engaged Art (2012). Morriseau is Cree and Saulteaux, and she is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She works across Canada and the US in theatre, film, television and music. Among numerous honours, Renae was the recipient of the 2015 Mayor’s Arts Award for her work to cultivate social justice and inclusiveness through theatre and music.

MOA presents: Layers of Influence: Unfolding Cloth Across Cultures

By Kelly O’Connor

On November 19th, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC unveiled Layers of Influence: Unfolding Cloth Across Cultures, transforming the Audain Gallery into a veritable forest grove of ornate and delicate textiles. The new exhibition features culturally, spiritually, and religiously significant selections from Western Canada’s largest textile collection, on display through April 9th, 2017 in Vancouver, BC.

“From birth to death, people are wrapped in cloth. We wear clothing for warmth or protection from the sun, but also as an expression of political power, social prestige, pride in identity, and spiritual protection,” notes Dr. Jennifer Kramer, MOA Curator and Associate Professor of Anthropology at UBC. “What we value and wish to emphasize is mirrored in the clothing we wear.”

Haida hlk’yaan q’usdan (frog) k’aad gyaat’aad (button blanket) by Robert Davidson and Dorothy Grant, 1982. Photo courtesy of MOA

Haida hlk’yaan q’usdan (frog) k’aad gyaat’aad (button blanket) by Robert Davidson and Dorothy Grant, 1982. Photo courtesy of MOA

The cloth used in rites of passage, celebrations, and ceremonies embodies cultural values, identity, and connection to community. “It’s the hands of your ancestors you’re meeting,” says Kramer. Across cultures, treasured heirlooms share the spirit of generations, and some are living artifacts still in use by family members today.

Salish blankets are worn by community leaders as signs of social prestige and civic responsibility. In 1991, inspired by an ancestral robe, sisters Debra and Robyn Sparrow of the Musqueam First Nation created a Sister Blanket (on display at MOA). During Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in 1997, Chief Councillor Gail Sparrow wore this robe when she met with President Clinton. The original blanket, now in the Smithsonian collection, was made with mountain goat wool, cedar bark, and wooly dog hair.

Wild mountain goat wool was difficult to gather in quantity, but the Salish Wool Dog was once an integral part of Pacific Northwest coastal life, bred and raised specifically for its “fleece.” The long-haired white dogs were deliberately separated from other village dogs, and small “flocks” of wooly dogs were confined in on islands or in caves to prevent crossbreeding. They were fed salmon year-round and sheared like sheep to remove their thick fleece for use in textiles.

Haida chilkat robe (Kaigani or Tlingit) circa 1875‐1900, Alaska. Photo courtesy of MOA.

Haida chilkat robe (Kaigani or Tlingit) circa 1875‐1900, Alaska. Photo courtesy of MOA.

In 1828, a report from Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Langley described flocks of shorn dogs being transported in canoes. As Coast Salish Territory was colonized, Hudson Bay blankets and domestic sheep eventually replaced this unique Indigenous textile industry, and the Wooly Dog interbred with other dogs, losing its specific qualities. Less than 100 years after European contact, the Coast Salish Wooly Dog was effectively extinct. The last identifiable Wooly Dog died in 1940.

The exhibition also includes an intricate mountain-goat wool Chilkat dancing robe, possibly owned and worn by Kaigani Haida Chief Kasawak. It was woven by women and features a diving whale motif. Creating these unique textiles by hand requires patience and skill in addition to physical, emotional, and divine energy to fuel the process of weaving. William White, Tsimshian master weaver, says the power of the weaver “goes into the robe—that spiritual power that is put on it when you wear that robe. We believe that it comes alive.”

Coast Salish swuqw’alh wool blanket made by sisters Debra and Robyn Sparrow (Musqueam). Photo courtesy of MOA

Coast Salish swuqw’alh wool blanket made by sisters Debra and Robyn Sparrow (Musqueam). Photo courtesy of MOA

The Museum of Anthropology is Canada’s largest teaching museum, inspiring understanding of and respect for world arts and cultures. Layers of Influence includes over 130 examples of culturally significant textiles, showcasing a range of materials, techniques, and adornments, including hand-dyed batiks of Bali, appliqued button blankets from BC’s Northwest Coast, jaspe weavings of the Mayan people of Guatemala, and much more. Unfurled, the lavish display of fabric reveals the sophisticated workmanship of each piece and creative use of materials like silk, wool, feathers, and bark. Go to [] to plan your visit or browse the MOA’s collections online.

Mohawk Girls: Season Four Debuts

Press Release:

APTN’s (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) critically-acclaimed and award-winning dramatic comedy Mohawk Girls returns for season four. The show takes a comedic look at the lives of four modern-day women trying to stay true to their roots while navigating sex, work, love and what it means to be Mohawk in the 21st century.



Filmed and set in Montreal and the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, the eight-episode, fourth season of the half-hour dramedy premieres Tuesday, October25 with weekly episodes airing on APTN e, and HD at 9:30 p.m. ET, APTN w at 9:30 p.m. MT and on APTN n on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. CT (premiering on Oct. 30).
Viewers can venture deeper into the world of Mohawk Girls via the interactive website, with a quiz app, behind-the-scenes secrets and entertaining graphic content. The devoted online community of the series can connect via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

This season, the girls are pushed further out of their comfort zones as they deal with interracial dating, politics, wedding planning, love triangles, career aspirations, all as they try to forge their own identities in a community embedded with rules and cultural traditions.

In Season 4, Bailey chooses a path that she hopes will make her happy while satisfying her family and community. But it soon becomes clear to her that she can’t have her cake and eat it too; she’ll have to choose between following her heart and being a good Mohawk. Zoe goes to extremes to win back the community’s approval after shirking her duties at a fundraiser at the end of Season 3. But trying to be everything to everyone takes its toll and she reverts to indulging in her kinky little secret, which threatens to derail both her personal and professional life. Caitlin, after discovering that she’s never had a healthy relationship before, throws caution to the wind and embarks on one, despite her community’s disapproval. But when things begin to go a little too well, she falls back into an all-too-familiar pattern of self-sabotage, putting the relationship – and her chance of happiness – in jeopardy. And, after fighting with her mother and losing her boyfriend Thunder at the end of last season, Anna is ready to call it quits and move back to New York. But to her surprise, she’s finally welcomed into the community with open arms… as long as she conforms to the rules of the rez. But will that be too much conformity for this free spirit?

The dynamic cast of four leading women includes returning cast members Jenny Pudavick (Bailey), Brittany LeBorgne (Zoe), Heather White (Caitlin), and Maika Harper (Anna). Meegwun Fairbrother (Butterhead), Kyle Nobess (Thunder), Jimmy Blais (Watio) and Shawn Youngchief (Ohserase), reprise their roles as the men they love. Also returning, Tantoo Cardinal as Zoe’s mom, Glen Gould as Bailey’s father and Jeffrey Wetsch as James. New this year is Dwain Murphy, who takes over the role of Leon.

The series was nominated for 4 Canadian Screen Awards this spring, including Best Comedy Series, Best Direction in a Comedy Program or Series, Best Writing in a Comedy Program or Series, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Comedic Role (Brittany LeBorgne). It has several awards to its name, including a Golden Sheaf Award in the Comedy category at the Yorkton Film Festival, the APTN Award at the Festival Présence Autochtone (Montreal First Peoples’ Festival) and a nomination for Best Sitcom at the Banff Rockie Awards. Spafax has licensed several episodes of the show, airing them on the Comedy TV channel on Air Canada enRoute Inflight Entertainment on domestic and international flights. US distributor GRB represents the show worldwide andMohawk Girls debuted in Australia on the SBS network in June.

HIGH STEEL: Mohawk Ironworkers Series on APTN

By Lee Waters

Mohawk Ironworkers is a new 13-part half hour documentary series that celebrates the ‘steely determination’ of the Mohawk ironworkers of Kahnawake, Akwesasne and Six Nations that are said to be “the best ironworkers on the planet.”

The series features engaging personal stories from the Mohawk Ironworkers who built the World Trade Center and were affected by the 9/11 cleanup, the men and women who enroll in today’s rigorous training programs to keep the tradition alive, and more. According to the APTN release: Using a mixture of dramatic HD “high steel” footage, on the job and home-life reality shooting and archival material, each half hour episode presents a fascinating visual and moving story of the ironworkers and their families – as they face the realities of one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.

Photo courtesy: DC Montreal WordPress

Photo courtesy: DC Montreal WordPress


It All Began With A Bridge

Ironworking requires a rare combination of strength, intelligence and courage. Tasked with laying the foundations and building the metal skeletons of buildings, workers handle the lifting, fixing and welding of hundreds of heavy steel beams – often while thousands of feet in the air.

The Mohawk tradition began in 1886 during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge across the St. Lawrence from Kahnawake to Montreal. First hired as day labourers, the locals soon proved adept at the dangerous work and later found themselves in demand elsewhere.

Unintended Consequences

The Mohawk Ironworkers series details some of the devastating health effects the cleanup crews were exposed to during the 9/11 cleanup. One episode description is as follows: When the NYC Twin Towers were destroyed on 9/11, over 50 Mohawk ironworkers helped clear the wreckage of the iconic Towers their fathers built. But no one was prepared for the health risks of the Ground Zero cleanup. The cleanup cost Jaysen Mayo his health and career, and Brad Bonaparte, his life…

Photo Courtesy: Smithsonian Institute

Photo Courtesy: Smithsonian Institute

The chronic health impacts of ground zero have remained a controversial topic. An article from the Village Voice in 2006 reported that several dozen recovery personnel have developed cancer – as opposed to having contracted respiratory ailments, and that doctors have argued that some of these cancers developed as a result of the exposure to toxins at the Ground Zero site: “To date, 75 recovery workers at ground zero have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure.”

Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital said, “Why isn’t the whole nation mobilizing to take care of the chronic health impact of this disaster?” Dr. Norton cited the 70 percent illness rate among first responders as “a wake up call.” Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, Dr. Nathaniel Hupert of Weill Cornell Medical College, quoted by Jill Gardiner of the October 4, 2006, issue of the New York Sun said that premature deaths and other ailments of dogs in the area are “our canary in the coalmine.”

Alleged deceptions about Ground Zero air quality also surfaced in August 2003, in a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA said the Bush administration pressured the EPA to remove cautionary information about the air quality at Ground Zero. According to Wikipedia, numerous key differences between the draft versions and final versions of EPA statements were found. A recommendation that ‘homes and businesses near ground zero be cleaned by professionals’ was replaced by a request that citizens follow orders from NYC officials. Another statement that showed concerns about “sensitive populations” was deleted altogether. Language used to describe excessive amounts of asbestos in the area was altered drastically to minimize the dangers it posed. Despite the health risks, many ‘fearless’ Mohawk Ironworkers, felt it their duty to participate in the cleaning and building of the One World Trade Center.

The series is also accompanied by an online videogame called Rivet Rampage. This single-player game puts you in the role of a Mohawk ironworker. You are tasked with building one of the most iconic buildings in history, the Empire State Building, as well as Montreal’s infamous Mercier Bridge. Follow the foreman’s orders and ‘avoid flying birds, hot rivets and whirlnados.’

Each building site contains multiple levels where you take on real-life ironworker tasks like climbing structures, erecting platforms and finding tools.  Also available are Mohawk Ironworkers collectible trading cards that feature over 80 ironworkers who participated in the series. Collectable Cards will soon be available for purchase on the Mohawk Ironworkers website and in select stores in Kahnawake, Akwesasne and Six Nations. Virtual cards are available on the series Facebookpage.

Mohawk Ironworkers is produced by Paul M. Rickard, George Hargrave, and Margaret Horn. The series features a team of Indigenous directors: Jeff Dorn, Margaret Horn, Courtney Montour, Paul M. Rickard, and Michelle Smith. The series premiered Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.

For more information visit the Mohawk Ironworkers Facebook page at or visit the Mohawk Ironworkers website at