Global Feminisms and Indigenous Voices

A discussion at the 2016 Women in the World Summit

Much of what we’ve been writing and thinking about these past few weeks has depended on this concept of “historical consciousness,” an understanding of the temporality of historical experience, such as how the past, present, and future are connected. When we interviewed  AGO curator Wanda Nanibush a few weeks ago, I asked her about the role historical consciousness plays in indigenous art, whether it was something she thought a lot about, or something that she imagined the artists she curates engage with in their work. We were trying to gather opinions on this idea of indigenous historical consciousness, and whether or not its something more inherent to performativity of lived experiences. Wanda surprised me with her answer; she stated very clearly that she does not believe there is such a thing as historical consciousness, but just… consciousness.

Her statement stuck me with, and has been informing my interactions with new ideas and information. From April 6-8, the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit took place in New York City. On the second day of this summit, there was a panel discussion called “Canada’s Shame: The Murdered and Missing,” which featured Melina Laboucan-Massimo (Sister of Murdered or Missing Indigenous Woman and Indigenous Activist) Lori Shenher, (Author, Speaker and Former Detective, Vancouver Police), Michele Pineault (Mother of Murdered or Missing Indigenous Woman) and Hon. Carolyn Bennett, MD (Canadian Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs). The panel was facilitated by John Hockenberry, and featured personal, historical, cultural, feminist, and legislative discussion about the history of racism, colonization and sexism that pushed indigenous people to the margins of society, contributing to the epidemic of missing and murdered women and children. Read More

Theme Introduction: Film as Activism

To get the most out of film, we might acknowledge that film is not of the world, film is a world (a new world). Film is not simply a reproduction of reality, it is its own world with its own intentions and creativities. Cinema is the projection, screening, showing, of thoughts of the real. 

-Daniel Frampton, “Filmosophy”

This week marks the beginning of our engagement with the different forms activism can take.

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Cinematic Memories: Filming Activism and Personal History


On Thursday, March 10th, the Aboriginal Student Centre at the University of Waterloo hosted an event in conjunction with the History Speakers’ Series. Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, a filmmaker, writer, and actor from Vancouver, had a conversation with us about her films and the processes of turning personal history into a cinematic experience.

We screened Bihttoš (2014), A Red Girl’s Reasoning (2012), Colonial Gaze: Sami Artists’ Collective (2012),and Mavericks: Season 2, Ep. Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, blood reserve (2015).

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Docudrama and Performing the Past in We Were Children

Film can have the unique responsibility of conveying complicated memories. For Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod in We Were Children (2012), film does just that. As two survivors of Canadian Residential Schools, Lyna and Glen give testimony to their experiences in this film that seeks to recreate them. The story takes place in their childhoods, as children who were forced to attend Canadian residential schools by their family and community members (and while we know it was really enforced by the Canadian Government, this is never really shown). The film jumps in time, and between locations, as it shows both Lyna and Glen’s entire time at the schools. We see them change, we see their tears, we see what christianity in this country has done. But do we see enough?

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Tanya Tagaq and Reclaiming the North

Nanook of the North (Robert J. Flaherty, 1922)

The film itself is infamous. Robert J. Flaherty’s depiction of “life and love in the actual arctic” in Nanook of the North (1922) has been part of pop culture for decades. From being parodied in the Legend of Korra as Nuktook, The Hero of the South to being analyzed in first year film classes: Nanook has had its moments under the microscopic lens. Part of this attention comes from the film Nanook Revisited (1990), where filmmakers returned to the locations of Flaherty’s original film, and effectively debunked many of the Eskimo stereotypes and images portrayed in the 1922 film. Part of the attention also comes from its false reputation as the first documentary, and its inclusion in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1989. It is also a film that came from a larger ethnographic movement, and works in canon with most anthropological work of this time period. In any case, this film has come to carry quite a lot of significance. And placing its meaning back into the hands of the culture depicted on screen is a powerful movement that effectively creates a new history.

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