Thunder Radio is an online podcast channel of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre that is focused on First Nations education in Manitoba and in Canada as a whole. There are currently 16 episodes on the online channel, covering topics including Indigenous Literature, Indigenous Knowledge, and Virtual Learning on Reserves. This resource provides glimpses into current topics in Indigenous education through the eyes of Indigenous educators, students, and other contributors. The list of official podcast followers is online, so there is also the potential for listeners to connect with one another across communities. This oral medium is important for stimulating discussion regardless of time and place, enabling listeners to engage with the information as if they were being told a story or conversing with someone right in front of them.
As part of my travelogue of research on indigenous storytelling, I ventured into a related direction. Our module’s discussion of self-representation in media inspired me to explore distribution. After all, why tell a story if it can’t be shared? For Indigenous storytellers looking to share stories with wider audiences in Canada and internationally, what are the options? Who are potential distribution partners? Are Indigenous players in the arena? Which distributors support film media? Publishing? New media? Who is helping to develop and share spoken, artistic and printed stories and artwork?
I realized that many oral and dance traditions might be captured with screen-based media and fall into the documentary realm. Although sites such as Native Dance contain over 100 videos of footage and hundreds of images, providing a wealth of information on dance traditions from coast to coast in Canada, they do not lead to any dedicated distribution channel. So far, most astounding to me is typing in “Aboriginal Dance” on YouTube, which reveals a plethora of resources, a never-ending sea of videos uploaded by multiple users – so I credit YouTube as a valuable exhibitor, but not a dedicated one.
Here is a look at some of my key discoveries in the area of distribution:
This is a major report published in October 2013, commissioned by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival (imagineNATIVE) whose mandate is “to foster and promote the Aboriginal film and media sector.” It was funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation and Telefilm Canada. The report examines all aspects of Aboriginal feature film production in Canada, including funding and distribution, and makes recommendations for further development. The role of government-supported organizations in recognizing and including Indigenous cultures as part of Canada’s identity and cultural landscape appears to be essential to preservation and growth of this cultural industry sector.
(Almost) hot off the press! Announced on June 12, 2017 at Banff World Media Festival, Canada is about to get a new Indigenous Screen Office tasked with “supporting the development, production and marketing of Indigenous content.” This initiative is the result of a collaboration of key audiovisual industry organizations that include APTN, CBC Radio-Canada, the Canada Media Fund (Supporting and developing the Indigenous screen-based industry in Canada), the Canadian Media Producers Association, the National Film Board of Canada, Telefilm Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund and VICE Studio Canada. What promising industry leadership!
This was the only distributor I could locate so far of its kind. IsumaTV bills itself as “a collaborative multimedia platform for indigenous filmmakers and media organizations.” It is a project of Isuma Distribution International Inc., “Canada’s first media distribution company specializing in Inuit and Aboriginal films,” and works in coalition with a range of partners such as producers and non-profits.
Other major film distributors have been quoted as wishing to see more Indigenous stories, but I was unable to find many dedicated to Indigenous content. One that did stand out is the Winnipeg Film Group, with a dedicated Indigenous Filmmaker Catalogue. Other organizations such as the National Indigenous Media Arts Coalition support a range of development and funding activities, but within a network of partnerships.
Turning to print-based media, the University of Toronto Libraries has published a guide of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis publishers and distributors across Canada. Its focus is on Indigenous-owned publishers, and academic and small presses that publish the work of Indigenous authors. According to the site, “particular effort is made to include publishers of Indigenous language materials. More detail is provided on publishers from Central Canada. While an effort has been made to select publishers working in a good way, this guide should not be understood as an endorsement of any publisher or publication.” Started in 2010 and last updated in 2016, contact information is provided to allow for more updates. The site also links to UBC’s Aboriginal Publishers, Distributors & News Media homepage.
Finally, new media outlets. New Journeys, a Canadian-based online Friendship Centre resource, published a list of podcasts in January 2017. Auditory and sometimes visual in nature (when in video format), podcasts provide new channels for content distribution across digital spaces. Cited on the list is Media Indigena, a weekly Indigenous current affairs podcast hosted by Rick Harp, who himself published An Index of Indigenous Podcasts in July 2016.
As with last time, I found many more relevant sites, but those fall slightly outside the scope of this discussion at this time. Now that I have taken an overview in Module One, and explored distribution in Module Two, my next step will be to narrow my focus to a more specific storytelling medium originating in Canada and research the development and implementation or distribution of such works within Canada and abroad.
Here are a few websites that I have come across:
- Indspire is a charity for Indigenous people by Indigenous people. When I worked with young ladies from the Kahnawake reserve in Montreal we attended a conference given by Indspire and it was something that none of us had ever experienced before. We had various speakers from various Aboriginal sectors speaking to the students their fields of study ranging from communications, to medicine, to the military. The speakers left the students motivated and inspired about their futures.
- Muskrat Magazine is an online magazine whose primary focus is on Indigenous arts and culture. The magazines focus is to exhibit original works of art in various forms and to engage in critical commentary. Muskrat magazine uses both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, wireless technology and the internet to distribute information in an eye opening and interesting manner.
- https://fasdprevention.wordpress.com/ is a blog created to increase awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Since I am looking at social media use among Indigenous peoples, I am looking into what blogs are out there and what areas are these blogs in. Healthy and well-being, seem to one of the big concerns among indigenous peoples and many blogs seem to be appearing in these areas for individuals looking for help.
- http://www.naho.ca/radio: Radio Naho is a new initiative from the National Aboriginal Health Organization aimed to bring health issues to the masses from a holistic perspective. The goal is to educate individuals with an emphasis to be placed on prevention. This radio station is geared to youth and young adults and wants to educate and influence healthy behavior by bringing on experts, advocates and role models.
- An Index of Indigenous Podcasts this post found on Media Indegina website lists various podcasts created by Indigenous individuals. There is no secret that it can be hard to find Indigenous representation in podcasts but this list is start.
1. Indian and Cowboy Podcast Network: http://www.indianandcowboy.com/
This is one of my favourite podcasting hosts: the podcasts are of high quality production, good storytelling laced with humour and deep reflection, and often talking about very relevant issues to First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and Canadian peoples.
A few of the current ones I follow include: Métis in Space, Red Man Laughing, and Stories from the Land.
2. Eastern Door Kahnawake Newspaper: http://www.easterndoor.com/
Living in Montreal, on Mohawk Territory, close to the community of Kahnawake, I have been reading the Eastern Door as another source of perspectives on current events in the surrounding area and abroad. Reading a community’s newspapers is a great way to get a sense of what is being talked about, what is seen as significant by community members in public positions (e.g. journalists).
3. God’s Lake Narrows: http://godslake.nfb.ca/#/godslake
This NFB Interactive documentary is a personal favourite, especially because of the way the writer, Kevin Lee Burton draws the viewer into the story while at the same time challenging and implicating the non-Indigenous viewer’s sense of place, space, and ideas of value. This story connects to some of the major themes we encountered in the first three weeks; mainly, the ways that knowledge emerges from stories connected to space and place. I appreciate how Burton uses his intimate knowledge of his community to play with the ideas of the gaze, commodity, and worth.
4. CBC Radio Personalities
Rosanna Deerchild hosts the CBC show, “Unreserved,” which I find to be a good source for some of the contemporary cultural trends emerging from young artists belonging to various Indigenous Nations. Deerchild has a great interview style, which I think elicits great conversation with her guests, resulting in good insights on pressing issues and concerns. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved
Candy Palmater hosts, “The Candy show,” which is another source for great music and conversation. Her unique on-air personality really provides great perspectives when in conversation with guests. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/candy
5. First Story Toronto https://firststoryblog.wordpress.com/aboutfirststory/
Formerly known as “The Toronto Native Community History Project,” this initiative has expanded its bus tours to now include a mobile app, “First Story”. People interested in learning about the Indigenous histories in and around Toronto may take app guided walks where points of interests will appear on their mobile device and users may choose to listen to the story that corresponds to that place.