Author Archives: paul waterlander

Module 2- Post 5: “In Whose Honor?” : Paul Waterlander

This is a powerful documentary centering on the battle to fight racist and harmful Indigenous stereotypes.  This battle happened in the early 1990’s at the University of Illinois.  The school’s mascot was named “Chief Illiniwek”.  He was created back in the 1920’s, and his job was to create school spirit and cheer on the university’s football and basketball teams during halftime.

An Indigenous student at the university named Charlene Teters decided to challenge the school mascot for being both racist and culturally insensitive.  The “Chief” wears traditional Sioux buckskin clothing.  He also wears an eagle-feather headdress, which is very sacred to the Sioux, and is only bestowed to the wearer when brave deeds are conducted in protecting Sioux people.  It is interesting to note that person portraying “Chief Illiniwek” has always been Caucasian.

The movie traces Teters’ journey as she begins to challenge the powers to be over the appropriateness of this mascot as a school symbol.

A university trustee who defends “Chief Illiniwek” says that, “The Chief is way we honor Native Americans.”  Parts of the film challenge this, as Indigenous people are interviewed and explain how racist and culturally insensitive “The Chief” is to them.

Teters and other protestors face a lot of abuse from the fans that come to the sporting events.  They are spat on and cursed at.  Teters has proven herself a strong and brave defender of her culture.

An excellent film!  It will provide tons of material to get class discussion going on the topic of stereotypes and appropriation of culture.

Here is the link to buy it ( warning…it is not cheap!) :

Here is a short trailer:


Module 2 -Post 4: Inuit Cultural Appropriation: Paul Waterlander

I saw this headline surfing the Web. ”

Nunavut woman accuses U.K. fashion label of appropriating Inuit design

This is a perfect example of how a corporation appropriates Indigenous culture for profit.  Here is the story:

Salome Awa says she was furious to discover that a U.K. fashion label had unveiled a sweater with a design that looks nearly identical to one created by her great-grandfather.

But more than anger, the Nunavut woman said she felt shocked that her ancestor’s unique design had been taken without permission.

“I went through all the garments and there it was: my great-grandfather’s garment, designed exactly the same way as he envisioned,” Awa, a CBC Nunavut morning show producer, told the Star in a telephone interview on Thursday morning.

“I was shocked, actually, because it’s sacred.”

Her great-grandfather was a shaman, Awa explained. He had asked his wife to make a unique parka with hands on the front to protect him from someone who might try to push him into the ocean and drown him.

Her great-grandfather was a shaman, Awa explained. He had asked his wife to make a unique parka with hands on the front to protect him from someone who might try to push him into the ocean and drown him.

Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen took a photo of her great-grandfather in the parka during his travels and visits with Inuit families in Canada’s Arctic in the 1920s, Awa said.

The photo, which dates to 1922, was published in the book Northern Voices: Inuit Writing in English.

“To wear it (the design) is almost like (a) mockery of my great-grandfather’s spiritual well-being,” Awa said. “There’s no other garment like it anywhere else in this world.”

The key components that make this cultural appropriation are: 1) the design was used without permission from the family that own the rights to the design.  2) the company that stole the design did it in order to make a profit.


Module 2-Post 3: Common Portrayals of Aboriginal People: Paul Waterlander

I found this very helpful website that does a fairly good job of explaining the key basics behind the creation and intent of stereotyping Indigenous people all over the planet.   Here are a few key points made:

  • Portrayals of Aboriginal people as being primitive, violent and devious, or passive and submissive, have become widespread in movies and TV programs and in literature ranging from books to comic strips.
  • Film-maker Arthur Lamothe broke new ground in Québec from 1973 to 1983, with his 13 part documentary series La chronique du Nord-Est du Québec. The series puts First Nations people centre-stage and provides them with a venue to tell their own stories.
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made a real effort to improve the portrayals of Aboriginal people in its television dramas. Spirit Bay, The Beachcombers, North of 60 and The Rez used Native actors to portray their own people, living real lives and earning believable livelihoods in identifiable parts of the country.
  • Ward Churchill argues that the myths and stereotypes built up around the Native American were no accident. He maintains that they served to explain in positive terms the decimation of Native tribes and their ways of life by “advanced” cultures in the name of progress, thereby making it necessary to erase the achievements and very humanity of the conquered people.




Module 2- Post 2: “For Angela” – Battling Stereotypes: Paul Waterlander

The short-film For Angela is based on the true experience an Aboriginal mother, and her daughter, Angela, faced while sitting at a bus stop in Regina, Manitoba.  A group of non-Aboriginal teen boys approached the bus stop and began to verbally assault the two Aboriginal women with all sorts of hurtful, racist, and stereotypical comments.

The attack left the young girl with feelings of shame and inner turmoil. Angela reacts strongly to this event and in an attempt to leave her Aboriginal culture behind, cuts off her long, beautiful braids, which is such a public way of showing her identity.  The mother is shocked and saddened and wants to help her daughter deal with her identity issues. After this attack, the rest of the film is devoted to how the mother tries to find justice, and make the boys accountable for what they did that day.

The film can be a powerful tool for any student, as it challenges the common stereotypes that still exist in Canada today.  I like to stop the film at certain key points and ask students what they are thinking at that moment. I conclude the viewing with a self-reflective journal entry asking the students to write down how they felt when they were witnessing the verbal attack, and to connect incident to the existence of stereotypes about First Nations in Canada.  The film is short…under 30 minutes, so it can easily be managed in one class sitting.

For me, the most powerful impact of this film is realizing it is not fiction!  This happened…in Canada…not in the too distant past.  The moral of the story is that stereotypes about Aboriginal people usually get fed by the mainstream media, and if these stereotypes are left unchecked, they can quickly turn to harmful, racist actions.

Thankfully this video is free to stream off the National Film Board webiste:


Here is the original movie before editing:

Module 2-Post 1: Aboriginal Filmmaker- Alanis Obomsawin: Paul Waterlander

Canadian Aboriginal filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin has successfully created a long list of some of Canada’s best Aboriginal-based documentary films.  Ms. Obomsawin got her start in filmmaking after realizing how the voices of Canada’s First Nations were a) hard to find, or b) made by non-Aboriginal filmmakers.  She was determined to change this!

Each of Ms. Obomsawin’s films is genuine and authentic to the Aboriginal perspective.  That she herself is of Abenaki descent gives her access to communities that may not be open to outsiders.

In her film Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Obomsawin goes behind the government barricades to document the Mohawk Warrior perspective on the Oka Crisis which occurred in Oka, Quebec in 1990.  This is important, as at the time of the crisis, the Canadian government refused reporters access to speak with the Mohawk Warriors.  The Canadian government’s goal was to portray the warriors as “terrorists”.  Not many Canadians are aware of the land claim issue that was the real underlying cause of this confrontation, hence part of the title  is 270 years of resistance!

Ms. Obomsawin’s body of work in the world of film is yet another great example of how modern technology can be harnessed to help First Nations artists help tell their stories.  I use three of her documentaries in the courses I teach in high school: Trick or Treaty, Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Is the Crown at War With Us?  Each film is high quality, and of immeasurable value for viewers who really want to dig deep into the colonial historical relationships that are entwined with most of today’s Aboriginal issues in Canada.

Link to her body of work:


Here is a short 7 minute interview with Ms. Obomsawin



Here is a trailer to her amazing documentary on the Canadian treaty process called Trick or Treaty:


Module 1 – Post 5: Stereotypes of Native Americans Website: Paul Waterlander

This site has lots of valuable information for educators looking for material on how negative stereotypes impact Indigenous/Settler relationships.  There is a mixture of resources from academic articles, to advice for teachers on how to look for, and properly handle, the issues of stereotypes in the classroom.

In my opinion, battling negative stereotypes is step #1 in creating an atmosphere of reconciliation in Canada.  Stereotypes can easily be the open door that leads to actual racist acts.  Stereotypes prevent positive relations to be built between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Non-Indigenous educators often lack the background that would allow them to address the issues of stereotyping and how it negatively impacts all those involved, but especially the Indigenous students in front of us.

One problem I saw on this site is that there are broken links to some of the information, meaning it needs an update.



Module 1 – Post 4: “Indian Country Today” News Website: Paul Waterlander

Indian Country Today is a one-stop news site focusing on Indigenous issues mostly centred in North America, but often looks globally as well.  This is a good example of using technology to amplify the Indigenous viewpoint to a wider audience.

While browsing, I saw articles on the legal ( U.S. treaty rights), the political ( Idle No More), the historical (Pocahontas: real vs. Disney version), political (cartoons drawn by Marty Two Bulls), and even entertainment (an interview with actor Adam Beach).

The reporters and the columnists are all Indigenous, so readers get their perspective on events that impact the Indigenous populations.  This is important, because the mainstream media often ignore, or show their bias to these events.  Rarely do the voices of Indigenous people get reflected in today’s mainstream media.

This is a great source to find the genuine and unfiltered viewpoints of Indigenous people.



Political cartoons found in Indian Country Today drawn by Marty Two Bulls:



Module 1- Post 4: “Indian Country Today” News Site Paul Waterlander

Using technology to harness the power of amplifying Indigenous issues is the goal for the Indian Country Today website.  This is a one-stop site for all interested in seeing what is important to the Indigenous people mostly focused in North America, but also venture to other global locations.  The reporters and columnists are Indigenous.  This is an important distinction.  News for, and by, Indigenous people.  The stories I browsed were a scattering of all topics.  They cover legal matters ( U.S. treaty rights), protests ( Idle No More), historical ( the real Pocahontas) and political cartoons (First Nations cartoonist Marty Two Bulls) and entertainment (an interview with Indigenous actor Adam Beach.)

Indian Country Today is an important source for any looking for the genuine and authentic Indigenous point of view about the world today.





Module 1 – Post 3: Anti-Stereotyping Campaign: Paul Waterlander

I found an interesting article on the CBC website focusing on a Winnipeg activist named K.C. Adams.  Adams wants to challenge the historical First Nations stereotypes sadly still lingering all over Canada today.  Her method is to use two photos of real First Nations to juxtapose the myth-based stereotype versus the real person in the photo.  The campaign idea was to post these photos on the sides of buses and billboards in the city of Lethbridge, Alberta to gain maximum public exposure, and get the tough conversations started.

The project cost just under $30,000 and was funded with help from Pattison Outdoor, ATB Financial, the City of Lethbridge, CASA, CMARD (Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination), University of Lethbridge and its Faculty of Fine Arts.

The campaign has received lots of attention.  Sheila Shaw, one of the people who volunteered to pose for one of the photos explains what compelled her to do this project:

“”I wanted to show that, even though you do feel personally attacked … they’re just basing their judgement on your skin colour.”

Shaw, who is Cree, says her children are darker-skinned than she is and they have experienced racism in Lethbridge.

“There’s no hiding from it,” she said. “And so, it’s important to talk about it. And talking about it is more constructive than getting angry.”

The creator , K.C. Adams, wishes to expand this campaign all over Canada.  Fighting stereotypes is one concrete action all Canadians can take to help with reconciliation.





Module 1-Post 2: Fighting Stereotypes & Appropriation With Humour: Paul Waterlander

I stumbled across a First Nations comedy troupe based out of the USA while roaming the Internet.   Stereotyping of First Nations and cultural appropriation are serious problems in our society today.  Humour and satire have been historically used to bring these serious matters to the surface so that they can be debated.   The troupe cleverly calls themselves ” The 1491’s”  ( One year before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World).   This is how they describe themselves and what they do:

“The 1491s are a sketch comedy group based in the wooded ghettos of Minnesota and buffalo grass of Oklahoma. They are a gaggle of Indians chock full of cynicism and splashed with a good dose of indigenous satire. They coined the term All My Relations, and are still waiting on the royalties. They were at Custer’s Last Stand. They mooned Chris Columbus when he landed. They invented bubble gum.”

Here is their website:

You can find many of their videos on this link, or search them on YouTube.  The 1491’s are using technology to create and post their skits, which enables them to broadcast to a wider audience all over the world.  Their fame is starting to spread, and they have been guests on late night television shows.


Here is a skit they created that pokes fun at stores that sell phony First Nations items that heavily rely on stereotypes and/or cultural appropriation.  Like all good satire, the mocking tone creates a space for society to reflect and to question their values.

Warning: Some of these skits contain mature content

and may not be suitable to show to students!