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From stereotypes to sovereignty: How Indigenous media makers assert narrative control

Indigenous media
Toronto actor and York University associate professor of theatre Michael Greyeyes appeared in all 18 episodes of the U.S. sitcom Rutherford Falls.

Ateqah Khaki, The Conversation; Dannielle Piper, The Conversation, and Vinita Srivastava, The Conversation

Over the last 30 years, we have seen exponential growth of Indigenous media and Indigenous media makers, especially here in Canada which has one of the largest repositories of Indigenous media. This includes films, TV shows, documentaries and even reality TV.

But the road to get here hasn’t been easy.

This is because Indigenous filmmakers, producers and artists have had to navigate the complex and often unfriendly terrain of Canadian media institutions and media production companies.

But their negotiations—and struggles—over the past 30 years have helped make space for a new generation of Indigenous media makers now making shows and films on their own terms.

Indigenous media
Darla Contois and Lisa Edelstein in the 2023 production of Little Bird (Crave/APTN) Crave/APTN.

These Indigenous creators increasingly have more decision-making power—and more control over how their stories get told as well as the ability to subvert old colonial representations.

In a special episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient, recorded on-site with an audience in Vancouver at Iron Dog Books, we speak with Karrmen Crey, an expert on this new Indigenous media world. Crey speaks about the ways Indigenous creators are using humour along with a sharp critique of pop culture to show just how different the world looks when decision-making power over how stories get told shifts and Indigenous media makers take control.

Crey, who is Stó:lō from Cheam First Nation, is an associate professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Her research focuses on Indigenously produced and created media in Canada and the media institutions that Indigenous people have had to navigate to produce their work. Crey is the author of Producing Sovereignty: The Rise of Indigenous Media in Canada.

Crey says:

I’m hoping that non Indigenous people are seeing [this new media] and not only registering it as being funny, but registering just how sharp and smart it is. There’s a lot of critical insight from those perspectives and I’m hoping it’s priming them to be more receptive and thoughtful about looking at things from Indigenous perspectives.

Resources

Producing Sovereignty: The Rise of Indigenous Media in Canada (by Karrmen Crey, 2024)

Rutherford Falls (TV sitcom)

Reservation Dogs (TV show)

“On-Screen Protocols and Pathways” (A report by the Indigenous Screen Office, 2019)

Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (a film by Alanis Obomsawin, NFB, 1993)

Shine Network

Learn more about Rutherford Falls.

Listen and follow

You can listen to or follow Don’t Call Me Resilient on Apple Podcasts (transcripts available), Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

We’d love to hear from you, including any ideas for future episodes.

Join the Conversation on Instagram, X, LinkedIn and use #DontCallMeResilient.

Credits

This episode was produced in front of a live audience at Iron Dog Books in Vancouver, in partnership with Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology and the Amplify Podcast Network. Simon Fraser student Natalie Dusek performed tech duties.The Conversation

Ateqah Khaki, Associate Producer, Don’t Call Me Resilient, The Conversation; Dannielle Piper, Associate Producer, Don’t Call Me Resilient, The Conversation, and Vinita Srivastava, Host + Producer, Don’t Call Me Resilient, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Arts for Canadians Tomorrow Society is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered on this land, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples whose arts and stories inspire us to bring communities together.