The Media Awareness Network

The Media Awareness network is a non-profit organization established to help adults teach young people about “how the media work, how the media may affect their lifestyle choices and the extent to which they, as consumers and citizens, are being well informed.”

There is a large section on the way Aboriginal people have been portrayed in the media. Links include common portrayals of Aboriginal people, Aboriginal people in the news, native names and imagery in sports, the impact of stereotyping on young people, the development of Aboriginal broadcasting in Canada, Aboriginal voices in the arts and media, and the importance of media education.

The information on the page should be very useful for anyone doing research into stereotyping. The links are very well developed and insightful. Links to related articles are included. The only thing I would add would be a list of references.

For example, the “Common Portrayals of Aboriginal People” page includes a section on history,
misrepresentation (romanticism, “The Indian Princess,” the warrior, the noble savage), historical inaccuracies, stereotyping by omission, and simplistic characterizations. There are also links to a related article on the site, four hosted elsewhere, as well as a National Film Board series.

October 18, 2010   No Comments

“New survey sheds light on cultural stereotypes”

Reginald Bibby from the University of Lethbridge (my old school) has released the findings of his research study concerning Aboriginal teenagers. Unfortunately, the entire study is not available online for free. However, I was able to find a summary of the findings written by the author at

There are some interesting things in it, especially in the light of the interview with Amy Parent that we studied.

The summary of the article states that young Native people are very similar to the general population. The article then goes on to state the differences, which include a much greater spirituality. The survey also states a similar finding about technology.

In the light of the Returning to Gitxaata video, it’s also important to note that the research has been released for sale privately, or in summarized form in newspapers. It was touching to see the response of the people when the UBC team returned with their research. Unfortunately, this did not happen in this case. While the nature of the research was different, surveying a demographic across different nations, it still would have been nice to see an attempt to bring the results to the people concerned.

October 14, 2010   No Comments

Native Networks

The Native Networks website is related to the National Museum of the American Indian. The Museum is part of the Smithsonian institute.

Native Networks, in their words, “. . . is dedicated to presenting and disseminating information about the work of Native Americans in media.
. . . Native Networks Website has four goals:
To provide a representation of current work in the field of Native American media including film, video, radio, television and new media.
To provide information to the public about the outstanding media productions which have been presented in the museum’s programs.
To provide the FVC and NMAI a way to maintain regular and frequent contact with the community of Native American independent media producers.
To provide a space for Native media makers to exchange ideas and to gather professional information.”

The site tends to view all First Nations people as a homogeneous group. There are no distinctions made for specific tribes, or even between north and south American Native peoples.

Resources include information about the Native American Film and Video Festival, plus links to other media related sites involving radio, film, video, other film festivals, and distributors.

October 13, 2010   No Comments

Kiviaq vs. Canada

The most recent grade eleven program of study created for social studies in Alberta deals with the concept of nationalism. Like other high school level social studies courses, the new curriculum includes a much greater focus on First Nations issues than what had been included in the past.

Quoting from the program of studies:
“Students will . . . evaluate the importance of reconciling contending nationalist loyalties (Canadian nationalism, First Nations and Métis nationalism, ethnic nationalism in Canada, civic nationalism in Canada, Québécois nationalism, Inuit perspectives on nationalism)”

A great resource that I have found is the movie Kiviaq vs. Canada. The film is a documentary from filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk. The subject of the film, Kiviaq is an Inuit man who was moved to Edmonton as a boy. He discusses his life and in the process gives great insight into the concept of nationalist loyalty, marginalization, and assimilation. Kiviaq was given the name David Ward by his father, and grew up boxing, playing football (ironically for a period for the Edmonton Eskimos), and working as an alderman and radio host. Later in life, he went back to school and became a lawyer. The film also examines his legal battles to be recognized by his Inuit name, and the challenges to have the Inuit receive similar funding as other First Nations people in Canada. The McGraw-Hill Ryerson textbooks for Social Studies 20-1 and 20-2 each have a short section dedicated to the story.

In the context of ETEC 521, the film is a great example of Aboriginal film makers using the media to illuminate an issue. This is not presented as a movie about Inuit issues. The issues become clear through an examination of the subject, Kiviaq.

September 30, 2010   No Comments

Our Home on Native Land

The link ( is to a series of documentaries that aired on CPAC a couple of years ago. The programs take a look at different reserves across the country. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the different communities.

September 28, 2010   No Comments

Kainai Board of Education

As I was struggling with the weekly post (are Aboriginal communities different), I popped over to the Kainai Board of Education’s website. The Kainai reserve is the largest reserve in Canada. They took control of the schools on the reserve in 1988.

From the site:

“Within the context of Nitsitapi Culture and Language, the Kainai Board of Education educates Tribal members. Kainai schools offer programs to produce confident and culturally sensitive students. The Board seeks to have students become responsible, natural learners, aware of their special individual abilities in a metacognitive environment. These students value a tradtional and contemporary lifestyle. ”

Links from the site include each of the schools on the reserve.

September 25, 2010   No Comments

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and promoting American Indian languages

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and promoting American Indian languages

This is a huge database of information relating to the languages of the First Nations peoples. It is run by a non-profit organization based in Minnesota.

The Blackfoot section for example ( contains links to the Blackfoot alphabet, vocabulary, pronunciation guides, and common words grouped by themes. Because it is an oral language, all of the words are written phonetically using the English language. This does not translate to the tongue. For example, the word for bear, is spelled as “kiááyo.” When heard spoken however, it sounds more like “ghuuy-yoo.”

These resources would be best used by someone who already has a grip on the language. My experience with the language is that there are many nuances of pronunciation that are very difficult. I know many people who can understand the language, but can not speak it. These resources will not be much use for anyone at this level. I have witnessed an elder correcting a person’s pronunciation of a word repeatedly. Without that kind of immediate feedback, a person will not be able to fully learn the language.

These shortcomings could be addressed to some degree with video and audio clips. At least the learner could hear the words as they are supposed to be spoken.

September 25, 2010   No Comments

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

Rather than taking the day off like we have in previous years, our school went on a field trip on “Treaty 7 Day.” The former holiday was held to note the signing of Treaty 7 between the Queen and the people of the Blackfoot confederacy. We went to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, just west of Fort McLeod, Alberta. It was especially nice that the guide for my group was a former student of mine. He delivered a really professional tour that my students found very interesting. I again thought about Bowers (2000) and the idea of cultural neutrality as we watched the new video in the interpretive centre’s theatre. The old video was made in the ’80s that used a dead (and frozen) buffalo that was pushed over the cliff. Each time I saw the film the audience laughed as the buffalo bounced on its way to the bottom. The new film uses computer animation to show what it would be like when a herd was chased off of the jump. It may be that as computers evolve away from English language machines and into more intuitive tools that utilize voice and image, they are becoming more culturally neutral.

Bowers, C., Vasquez, M., & Roaf, M. (2000) Native people and the challenge of computers: Reservation schools, individualism, and consumerism.” American Indian. 24(2), 182-199.

September 25, 2010   No Comments

Bringing Back Blackfoot

The article from Fast Forward Weekly Magazine provides insight into the challenges facing the survival of the Blackfoot language. The story centres around a 75 year old elder from Siksika named Rachel Ermineskin. Having endured residential schools, she has been able to maintain her language. Before moving back to her home on the reservation (just outside Calgary’s city limits), Ermineskin participated in Blackfoot language courses at the University of Calgary.

The article also discusses how difficult the language is for people who grew up speaking English. From my own experience, I have seen many young people who can understand Blackfoot, but who are unable to speak it. Many of my students know the “slang” words in Blackfoot, but that is all.

The story also discusses the future of the language. With over 3,000 people speaking the language today, it has the potential to survive. In my area, the Kainai board of education has introduced Blackfoot immersion classes for young students. I recently attended an event where a chorus of children from grades one and two sang O Canada in Blackfoot. That definitely gives hope for the future.

At the end of the piece, Ermineskin is quoted as saying, “We have the technology to preserve these kinds of things, so why not?” Even though she is on the reserve and can not commute to the university for classes, she can still participate through the use of a computer. While Bowers (2000) may be right in saying that technology is not culturally neutral, it can still facilitate interactions. An application of technology such as an elder using a program like Skype to communicate directly will not have the same bias as the printed word.

Bowers, C., Vasquez, M., & Roaf, M. (2000) Native people and the challenge of computers: Reservation schools, individualism, and consumerism.” American Indian. 24(2), 182-199.

September 25, 2010   No Comments

Technology helping to preserve language

Bowers (2001) makes the assertion that technology is fundamentally biased toward a European way of thinking. Even if this is the case, computers are not going to go away any time soon. An elder of the Kainai people named Pete Standing Alone stated on September 14, 2010 that technology should be used to help preserve the ways of the people. At Red Crow Community College, the Kainai studies department has set up a database of Blackfoot words. The pronunciation of the words can be heard by clicking on them. While it is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, it is a tool that has the potential to preserve the Blackfoot language.

Blackfoot Phraseology:

Bowers, C., Vasquez, M., & Roaf, M. (2000) Native people and the challenge of computers: Reservation schools, individualism, and consumerism.” American Indian. 24(2), 182-199.

September 15, 2010   No Comments