The NFB – A Resource for Aboriginal Documentaries

While looking for Canadian Indigenous films to augment Nanook of the North, I found myself visiting the National Film Board of Canada.  The NFB site has a section dedicated to the Aboriginal Perspective in film from 1940-2004.  The thirty –two Aboriginal documentaries are organized thematically: arts, cinema and representation, colonialism and racism, history and origins, Indigenous knowledge, sovereignty and resistance, and youth.

Within this collection there are films made by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.  Stereotypes are rampant, however the collection provides a starting point for critically analyzing Indigenous stereotypes in Canadian Film.  The 1943 Eskimo Arts and Crafts film perpetuates many stereotypes of the Inuit.  Upon seeing Robert Flaherty’s name as a consultant on the film, I began to further understand his role in creating the media’s Aboriginal persona of the time.  This documentary, along with many others, would be appropriate Canadian content for teachers wishing to compare and contrast historical media stereotypes of Indigenous people.  It would be interesting to analyze Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal films, thereby encouraging critical thinking about Indigenous stereotypes and media literacy in our students.

October 11, 2012   No Comments

Reel Injun

A  documentary film created by a Canadian Cree filmmaker to highlight and then debunk the stereotypes of Indigenous people in film.  The Reel Injun website has reviews and clips, as well as a link to their Youtube channel with clips from films that perpetuate Indigenous stereotyping.  This film and the website helped me understand and deconstruct indigenous stereotypes in film.  A review of particular interest is Xavier Kataquapit’s, an Indigenous comedian, who wrote a blog post and orally recorded it for the website.  “In one hour, ‘Reel Injun’ gave me a healthy and informative perspective on the history of how my people are perceived in this world.”  His perspective helped me further understand storytelling and the importance of this film to Indigenous people, as well as the general public.

Viewing this film in the Social Studies or English classroom, along with a historical documentary such as Nanook of the North or an NFB film, would enable students to actively visualize indigenous stereotypes and critically assess their impact.

October 11, 2012   No Comments

The Urban Aboriginal People’s Study

Stereotyping of Indigenous people has been an issue since first contact with European explores, and it is a problem still today.  The Urban Aboriginal People’s Study strove to examine “values, experiences and aspirations” of Aboriginal people living primarily off reserve.  This research project provides perspectives of Aboriginal people living in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa. 2,614 Aboriginal people are surveyed in this report.  This study should be reviewed critically.  It was not conducted by an Indigenous Group; however Aboriginal people were interviewers, guides, experts, and data analyzers.

I believe this is an excellent resource to help teachers understand their Aboriginal students, as well as a source for students to assess their own and their city’s stereotypes of Indigenous people.

October 11, 2012   No Comments

8th Fire

The blatant stereotyping and exaggerations of Nanook of the North reminded me of the importance of deconstructing stereotypes in film, thus I gravitated towards finding appropriate Indigenous film resources for the classroom.   8th Fire is a CBC documentary film series about the relationship between Aboriginal people and other Canadians.  The website has a plethora of resources on Aboriginal perspective, history and stereotypes.  Although only a couple of clips from 8th Fire can be viewed on line, there are multiple other videos in which Aboriginal people are interviewed.  These short videos provide perspective on Aboriginal tradition, culture, politics, stereotypes and rights.  The videos have the potential for sharing Aboriginal culture and issues with non-Aboriginal students, but also with Aboriginal students.  As with any media, teachers would have to encourage critical viewing and media literacy when viewing the videos.

Another interesting aspect of the site is the Aboriginal Filmmaker section.  Because I am researching how to support Aboriginal students in their studies, I found the personal stories about the filmmakers quite engaging.  The written word combined with the digital stories about their experiences, family and traditions provided another layer of depth to this site.  I would be interested to see how Aboriginal students receive these stories, if they connect with the filmmakers, and if students would be motivated to create their own videos.

October 11, 2012   No Comments

UBC Indigenous Foundations Website

I stumbled across this website when I was researching the commodification of totem poles   On further exploration, I realized this UBC website is an excellent resource for finding information on Indigenous stereotypes and Indigenous people.  Particularly, the article Aboriginal Identity and the Classroom discusses the historical and current issues indigenous people have faced in the Canadian education system.  The article also highlights stereotypes Aboriginal students face and the importance Aboriginal identity plays in education.  The writer presents a historical context for teachers wishing to understand Aboriginal educational experiences and their students’ perspective.  This article is part of the larger What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom Project. which highlights political, cultural and identity issues faced by Aboriginal students in the classroom.




October 11, 2012   No Comments

Tipatshimuna – Innu Stories from the land

The Innu Virtual Museum provides an excellent example of the use of technology to create a record of the elders’ (Tipatshimuna’s) stories.  The Innu people have created a digital website to share their traditional lives with other Innu and people across Canada.  The perspectives provided offer an understanding of what life was like for Innu youth and families.  Exhibit galleries, videos, audio clips, Innu youth stories and elder autobiographies help create this digital cultural story.

I believe this website would be an excellent resource for teaching about Canada’s Indigenous, particularly northern Quebec and Labrador.  As well, the collection is an excellent example of empowering Indigenous youth to learn about their culture through the use of technology.


September 20, 2012   No Comments

Google Earth Preserving Indigenous Culture

I never realized the potential of Google Earth to preserve cultures.  Chief Almir Surui of the Brazilian Indigenous Surui recognized that Google Earth would enable his people to create and preserve a cultural map of their ancestral lands.  The article on Mashable provides an overview of the Surui project in text and video format.

Chief Almir Surui was concerned with two issues: loss of culture and unsustainable illegal logging of the Amazon. “These days you can’t separate talking about culture from talking about technology, there’s no separation between these things,” Chief Almir Surui told Mashable.  Chief Almir embraced technology and partnered with Google: training Elders and a group of young students on how to use laptops and cellphones to take pictures, videos, map locations and record stories.  The result is a technological record of Surui historical sites, land, animals and traditions.

I was struck by this story because I believe Chief Almir Surui recognized that his tribe was fighting a losing battle, and therefore needed to combine traditional methods with western technological approaches.  Combined, the elders and students have brought awareness to Amazon deforestation and the challenges affecting Indigenous people.


September 20, 2012   No Comments

Empowering Indigenous Students Through Culture and Technology

Resistance through Re-presenting Culture

“If not us, then who?”  The Traditional Pathways to Health Project encouraged students to use video to record their culture’s perspective on healthy living.  This paper reviews the journey students and teachers undertook to educate themselves and their community on health related issues, while preserving their culture via video.  Students were required to plan, research and develop their video to be shared with their community.

Students believed this activity provided them with an opportunity to resist the Eurocentric education system and connect with their traditional culture.  The project empowered students to learn about their community and to share their experiences in order to promote awareness and understanding.


September 20, 2012   No Comments

Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainability

The UNESCO Teacher Education Module provides an overview of key topics concerning Indigenous education.  Six modules are provided for teachers to examine:

1.The wisdom of the elders.

2. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

3. Why is indigenous knowledge important?

4. Living by indigenous knowledge.

5. Indigenous and formal education.

6. Enhancing the curriculum through indigenous knowledge.

Of particular interest to me was the section on Indigenous and formal education.  This section highlighted the differences between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge.  I was reminded of Marker’s (2006) article, “After the Makah Whale Hunt: Indigenous Knowledge and Limits to Multicultural Discourse.”  The very first point made in the comparison is that Indigenous Education values the sacred and spiritual knowledge, whereas formal education often excludes the spiritual and is very secular.  This correlates with the obliviousness presented by the administrators, teachers and students to the Whale Hunt and the Makah student’s story.

This website is an excellent read for educators to gain an understanding of how to honour Indigenous traditional education, support Indigenous students in the classroom, and provide Indigenous perspective.


September 20, 2012   No Comments

Restoring Language

Crossing the Digital Divide: College of Menominee Nation uses technology to restore language

Like many Indigenous cultures, the Menominee Nation’s language is threatened. This article describes the action the Menominee Tribal College took to preserve their language and culture, while preparing their students for the future.  Three aspects are discussed: online education, teacher-student interactions, and a Community Technology Center.

In order to reach Menominee students across the country the college began using on-line classes.  Instructors have further embraced technology: downloading over 100 hours of audio recordings on to iPods and creating new digital movies involving students and elders.  Social media may also be a valuable tool by connecting youth with elders who support them in their language development.   The tribal nation recognized that not all people have access to technology, thus they built the Community Technology Center, which offers computers and internet access for the public.

The Menominee example highlights the capabilities of technology to preserve Indigenous culture and encourage youth to make connections to tradition and elders.


September 20, 2012   No Comments