First im­pres­sions

APTN se­ries brings non-In­dige­nous Cana­di­ans to In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties


First Con­tact APTN, Sept. 11-13

WIN­NIPEG Talk about a fish-outof-water story — an ac­coun­tant from Al­berta in a sweat lodge on a re­serve, an an­i­mal lover from On­tario on an Inuit seal hunt and a lob­ster fish­er­man from New Brunswick eat­ing din­ner with a res­i­den­tial school sur­vivor.

A new TV show is ex­plor­ing what hap­pens when you bring six out­spo­ken, non-In­dige­nous Cana­di­ans into In­dige­nous homes and com­mu­ni­ties. APTN’s First Con­tact, a three-part doc­u­men­tary se­ries, asks what some peo­ple really think about In­dige­nous Cana­di­ans. The par­tic­i­pants ini­tially re­spond with stereo­types: al­co­holism, drug abuse, flop houses and hand­outs.

But dur­ing the epic 28-day cross­coun­try jour­ney, they are forced to con­front their prej­u­dices head on.

The se­ries, based on an Aus­tralian show of the same name, was de­vel­oped by An­imiki See Dig­i­tal Pro­duc­tions, In­dios Pro­duc­tions and Nu­man Films — the former two are In­dige­nous-run. Metis ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Vanessa Loewen said it was im­por­tant to find par­tic­i­pants who rep­re­sent what a lot of Cana­di­ans think and bring them into sit­u­a­tions where they can ac­tu­ally see what it’s like to be In­dige­nous.

Racism and prej­u­dice are of­ten rooted in a lack of ed­u­ca­tion or hu­man con­nec­tion to peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent, she said, and through­out the se­ries there are many hope­ful “light bulb” mo­ments.

“You could see the change in some of their per­cep­tions and you could see their will­ing­ness to con­nect with peo­ple. You could see stereo­types kind of just started to slowly be­come re­placed with com­mon hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

“I hope that the viewer by ex­ten­sion ex­pe­ri­ences that ex­po­sure and ed­u­ca­tion. Those are the things that will tear down the walls that are keep­ing com­mu­ni­ties sep­a­rated.”

The se­ries be­gins with the group in Win­nipeg, which has the largest In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion of any ma­jor city in Canada. They learn they will be shar­ing food and stay­ing overnight in an In­dige­nous fam­ily’s home — and they are worried.

That quickly dis­ap­pears when they ar­rive at Kevin Lamoureux’s house. The former ed­u­ca­tion lead for the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and as­so­ciate vice-pres­i­dent of In­dige­nous Af­fairs at the Univer­sity of Win­nipeg said he was ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity. Lamoureux wasn’t shocked by any of the ques­tions or com­ments that flowed across his din­ner ta­ble. They were rooted in a sim­ple lack of knowl­edge, he said, and af­ter shar­ing sto­ries, every­one quickly found com­mon ground.

“It’s amaz­ing what is pos­si­ble when we can con­nect on val­ues and really con­nect as hu­man be­ings,” he said.

There were sim­i­lar re­sponses from the other In­dige­nous par­tic­i­pants in the show, said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Stephanie Scott, who was raised in Win­nipeg and is from the Roseau River Anishin­abe First Na­tion in Man­i­toba. De­spite know­ing they were open­ing their doors to out­spo­ken peo­ple, and there was the pos­si­bil­ity of a neg­a­tive en­counter, the In­dige­nous hosts thought it im­por­tant to share their ex­pe­ri­ences.

“(The se­ries) brought non-In­dige­nous Cana­di­ans into the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity. They were taught a lit­tle bit about the his­tory, the cul­ture, their food, how they sur­vived a cul­tural geno­cide, how they main­tain their lives, how they re­mained strong,” she said. “That’s what rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is to me.”

The se­ries show­cases stun­ning en­vi­ron­ments from Nu­navut to north­ern On­tario to the Bri­tish Columbia coast. It also delves into a con­ver­sa­tion that is some­times provoca­tive or un­com­fort­able, but it’s a di­a­logue the ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers say is im­por­tant to have in Canada right now.


The new APTN show First Con­tact ex­plores what hap­pens when you bring out­spo­ken Cana­di­ans into In­dige­nous homes and com­mu­ni­ties.

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