Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has submitted an application to renew its broadcasting licence to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC governs the conditions and terms by which APTN operates to provide programming to the Canadian audience. The licence renewal process is open to the public and everyone is invited to participate by submitting letters to the Commission.
Since 2013, APTN has received a fee of 31 cents per Canadian subscriber through monthly subscription fees. This has fueled a nationwide network of Aboriginal producers, writers, directors, actors, broadcast professionals and Aboriginal news teams in every province and territory. In 2015, APTN was called upon by the TRC to support reconciliation through the continuation of our leadership in programming and organizational culture.
85. We call upon the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, as an independent non-profit broadcaster with programming by, for, and about Aboriginal Peoples, to support reconciliation, including but not limited to:
i. Continuing to provide leadership in programming and organizational culture that reflects the diverse cultures, languages, and perspectives of Aboriginal peoples.
ii. Continuing to develop media initiatives that inform and educate the Canadian public and connect Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
(Excerpt from Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, 2015)
It is no secret, the portrayal and representation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian television is meagre. APTN is the only Canadian network that stands out as the exception to this reality. The network is a window into the profound diversity of their cultures, lives and languages. APTN is diligent in giving Aboriginal Peoples the opportunity to hear and see themselves on the screen, and that Canadians as a whole can access meaningful, informative and non-stereotypical programming. Also, news stories that other broadcasters are not covering that reflect Aboriginal cultures and perspectives.
APTN is requesting a modest increase to their wholesale fee for the next term, so as to continue their service to Aboriginal audiences, sustain a strong and talented Aboriginal production industry and grow opportunities to better serve the needs of Aboriginal communities through a comprehensive strategic plan. The network does not receive government funding for operations but generates revenue through subscriber fees, advertising sales and strategic partnerships.
The network proposes to meet substantially the same conditions of licence as currently apply to their service with some adjustments to the conditions of licence providing for greater flexibility. Highlights of APTN’s successes and key components of their application, as well as information on how to participate in the process can be viewed at www.aptn.ca/licencerenewal. APTN’s application for licence renewal was officially submitted on July 28, 2017 and the deadline to receive letters is November 16, 2017.
The premiere episode of Nations at War—on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on APTN—took us back to 1787 in the Pacific Northwest, a region of North America that was dominated by the Haida, the greatest naval power North America had ever seen.
Host David Lyle reminded viewers that at this time European and American ships were cross-crossing the world in search for goods to amass wealth. The Haida flourished and conquered the harsh Pacific seas with their war canoe designs. Their intimidating naval strength meant the Haida were able to grasp great wealth.
The episode included interviews with student and artist Erika Stocker, who shared knowledge concerning the connections the Haida have with both with the oceans and the spiritual beings of the region; and Jim Hart, artist and Hereditary Chief, who discussed the attributes of the Haida dugout war canoe, some of which carried 50-60 paddlers.
Topics the episode covered included: Pot-latch Ceremony, the natural cultural barrier that the Hecate Strait provided, the war canoe design, various war implements such as canoe breakers, the armour that was unique to the Haida people and the war club. Also discussed was the use of slaves by the Haida.
Nations at War is a unique approach to Canadian history and to understand this macro approach, I am including the following statement about the Haida, made by series creator and writer Tim Johnson. (Read more of my interview with Tim and producer and co-writer Jason Friesen here.) The depth in which he spoke illustrates the breadth of knowledge this series has encapsulated in an extremely engaging format:
Coming face to face with Pacific Northwest art, it is this stunning centuries old practice and cultural tradition that has endured,” he said. “I remember going and seeing the statues in the Grand Hall at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa, and how stunning those totems were. I knew very little about the Haida other than the fact where they lived and that they were an Indigenous people who had been on those islands for probably thousands of years if not longer and they were a very artistic and a very culturally gifted people.
It is interesting that in European history, the Vikings loomed large. They are this tidal wave of change and evolution in Europe. They revolutionized trade and trade routes, they completely changed maritime travel, they were a whisk that essentially mixed up all of these different political factions and re-forced them, especially in Britain, into the kingdoms which would go on to shape history for generations to come.
But when you compare the Haida to the Vikings, there are a lot of similarities. These were people who used warfare as a means to solve economical and logistical problems. Many societies, like the Mi`kmaq or the Metis, are utilitarian societies. They go and they hunt and fight and do work and defend their territory. So there is always a shortage of labour. If you are devoting all of your time to sustenance or survival, your outlook on life is pragmatic. Then your cultural traditions and your artistic traditions will be shaped by that outlook. There is a means to an end, it is mobile, it does not take up too much time or energy. That is why songs and dances actually, for a lot of people who lived a sustainable life, were more important than carving or building, because that was something that was personal that could be done around your life.
The Haida were an incredible adaptation where they took captives. They used slavery. Not only did they trade slaves as a resource to get more of what they lacked on their island, but they also had, I think at one point from the research that we found, was an estimated 24-26 per cent of the Haida population was probably non-Haida slaves. All of that manual labour, all of the domestic chores were taken care of which means that your young men and young women could devote themselves to art. Could devote themselves to culture. Could devote themselves to warfare. And what happens is kind of like what happened with the Egyptians; the emergence of monumental architecture.
So when I remember seeing those Haida totem poles as a child, I am not understanding the context. I was impressed by their size and power and beauty. When I understood how their society and their economy functioned, that raiding was not just warfare for warfare`s sake but it was warfare—like the Vikings—with a purpose, because of the need for resources, for the need for labour, for the need to gather the goods you can trade from one group of people to different group of people; it propelled their society into a cultural golden age. These carvings and these canoes with their decorated carvings on their hulls were not only incredibly useful pieces of technology, but they were emulated and envied. The nations on the coast would buy Haida canoes because they were awesome. They were incredible. They were well made, they were fast, they were durable and they were the perfect vessel for those waters.
When you see that art, those poles, which in many ways has become a brand for the west coast across the world, that is the product of a Haida cultural golden age that emerged from one of the most powerful and sophisticated civilizations in the history of the Americas. Now when I think back to when I saw those totem poles as a child, I realize now that I was seeing a statement of power from one of the most intellectual people in human history.
Once again, I extend my thanks to Tim Johnson for taking the time to share his passion for Canadian history.
If you missed the premiere episode, you can check it out here.
Nations at War airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.
APTN’s new documentary series Nations at War—airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET—takes a macro look at the influence First Nations people have had on global events in history. Creator and writer Tim Johnson and producer, director and co-writer Jason Friesen take a unique approach with many key events in Canadian history, often revealing details many of us have never heard before, and examine common themes throughout. By the end, they tie all of these events up into one large picture. I caught up with Jason Friesen and Tim Johnson to talk about Nations at War and what viewers can expect every week.
How did the two of you come up with the concept for Nations at War? Tim Johnson: There was a lot of debate on different elements because we had a limited budget. Part of what I wanted to do with the show’s concept was because I am a huge watcher of popular history shows, particularly British ones. I have always loved their approach and history programming is always done very differently than it is done here in North America. I wanted to emulate a lot of these British historical documentaries series that I found really exciting and very engaging and I think, very approachable to watch.
But when Jason and I started talking about making the show in the very early stages, I realized I am a writer and I can talk all about history that you want, and I like to develop a good story, but I am not a producer and I didn’t have the expertise to do it myself. I knew right away that I needed guidance. I needed someone with the skills, someone with the background, and I needed someone with organization. And I needed it to be the right person that could take the rough material I had come up with, and the concepts that I wanted to do, and the way I wanted the story—which is a very macro view of history—and take it to make a show that actually works. But it was British television that really inspired this.
Jason Friesen: Originally, it was a mutual friend of ours that pitched me Tim’s idea and I was connected with Tim and I went through the whole thing where my company acquired the show. I already have a long-standing relationship with APTN from other shows I have done with them, but basically, I played a lot of team sports growing up. I told Tim that a lot of what I do I learned from playing team sports. Everyone plays a different position on the team but in order to succeed or win, everyone has to come together with their different talents. Part of what I bring to the table is the broadcaster and financing, but I also bring a team of people like VFX and Peter Allen an award-winning composer, these are all really important ingredients that make shows really good.
When we pitched the concept to APTN we had to do a demo and so I enlisted a VFX friend Brian Moylan, and with his expertise, we sat down with what Tim had sent me and we added our ideas and creativity and fine-tuned all of the concepts and imagery. I had never done VFX before and we did over 1,100 VFX shots. There are a lot of movies that do not even have that many shots.
Tim: A lot of what we did didn’t exist, so there was a real synchronicity going on because each person we brought on had this technical knowledge to bring to this concept that was really a loose idea in my head. They brought it to reality. There are certain things that you can only do if you have an ungodly amount of money and people and time to throw at. The interesting part, the weakest aspects in my original concept was honestly where Jason, with his ideas, were a perfect fit. This show is a very map heavy show which was very clear in my mind but Jason brought in all of that personal and important detail stuff that was not clearly focused in my mind and it all fit perfectly with my macro idea. There was no question, it just all fit right away.
Why this show, right now? Jason: We get this question a lot with so many issues happening, but honestly, we have been working on this show from development until now for probably four years. I wanted to produce this show because I had a genuine interest in learning more about history, and I like to do things that challenge me and where I learn. I learned a lot about not only my own Metis history, but I learned a lot about other nations and just Canadian history in general. We are basically offering a slice of life from our historical past brought to life through elders and experts and VFX. There was never a ‘We have to do this now because it is timely,’ it was just a passion as a storyteller to do this. And APTN? They were very excited by this concept because it is an APTN show. It has all of the elements.
Tim: And I wanted to do a history documentary series. I was sitting in my apartment working on a Mother Mother music video at two o’clock in the morning, and I took a break and I just sat down and wrote out two or three episodes. And I thought, maybe I could do eight or something like that.
And like Jason said, ‘Well why now?’ Well, it is now because this is when production ended. When we started it was ‘Why don’t we do a cool history show?’ We just wanted to show everyone that Canadian history is global history and how First Nations were just as tied in to huge global events as the British Empire was. We are just showing the tides of history washing back and forth across the continent and frankly, that is all we ever wanted to do. We had an original concept and in show business having an original idea is like the Holy Grail. So if we don’t do it now, somebody else will.
We had a concept, and every topic we considered had to fit into our story. We are telling a story and decisions were made based upon how important each segment and its characters and individual story were to the big history story we were trying to tell. What kind of themes tie in with other themes and reach common ground in the bigger, wider narrative. There is stuff that we shouldn’t have been able to do with that budget that we did anyway. Especially the Haida Gwai episode, but we were smart about it, and we were committed to doing it in a way we could pull it off.
During your research, what surprised you? Jason: I am glad you asked that because the other day we were talking to a reporter who said ‘You know I watched a couple episodes, and I can honestly say that I learned some things I did not know about before.’ And I said ‘You don’t know how happy that makes me feel because I am all about learning.’ Especially when it comes to history, and when it comes to Native history. So to answer your question, that happened all the time. Even with our host David Lyle. We would send him his material. And then the next day, when Tim and I would be talking to him he would say, ‘HEY, I had no idea that the Haida were one of the strongest naval forces in North America.’ And I said, ‘I didn’t know at first either.’ That was the beauty of this project. When I think of this, I imagine people of all ages watching this on television in Canada and it makes me feel really good that people will be watching a program that has all of these visual anecdotes that help translate what Tim and I are trying to say. But it will also open up questions and understandings of things that people didn’t know about, and it will create conversations and educate people. There will also be an understanding that a lot of these Aboriginal heroes in a lot of these stories in history books, they are second players in their own stories. I am very excited for people to watch Nations at War and learn new things about not only their own culture but just history in general.
Nations at War airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.
Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 10 p.m. ET sees the series premiere of the history documentary Nations at War, produced by Jason Friesen, written and created by Tim Johnson and narrated by David H. Lyle on APTN. While taking in the fantastic visuals that VFX specialist Brian Moylan created with his team, viewers can expect to learn about such topics in Canadian history as the Haida Gwai, Louis Riel and Tecumseh.
As I watched, I noted that Nations at War followed a similar format as CBC’s controversial Canada: The Story of Us. In fact, this almost feels like a response to the very same. But that was just a coincidence in timing. If you recall, many viewers and even participants voiced their concerns about how little coverage the history of First Nations was dealt in Canada: The Story of Us. Here in Nations at War, those blanks were filled and Canadian history buffs will definitely rejoice at the materials covered. This is not the “same old same old” from our social studies texts. Nations at War takes a macro look at history and demonstrates how First Nations had just as much impact on huge global events as, say, the British Empire or the Spanish Empire did.
Series producer, co-writer Jason Friesen and creator, writer Tim Johnson set out to make a series that—when broken down—each episode tells one component of a larger story that reaches globally. Watched independently, viewers will learn about one full chapter of history and have a rounded understanding of that unique event. However, if you take the time to watch all 13 episodes, you will have a fuller experience. We as Canadians tend to downplay our importance in global history and Nations at War showcases the impact that people, who lived here on the land we now call Canada, had on the world stage.
As a teacher, I am always looking for material that can assist my colleagues who may not have the resources at hand when it comes to fulfilling the Aboriginal topics in their curriculum. I would recommend this series as a great resource. With the ability to stream once episodes have aired, teachers have the opportunity to pre-screen during the initial airing and then stream in the classroom. Topics included cover many different geographical regions in Canada so teachers can access the material relevant to the communities proximal to their area. The presentation is definitely engaging for students due to the heavy use of VFX in its creation.
If you are a history buff, be sure to check out Nations at War. If you are a teacher looking for new ways to introduce or even supplement your course materials, check this series out too.
Nations at War airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.
Rezolution Pictures announced that Season 5 of the APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) hit dramedy series Mohawk Girls will begin filming today, once again in Montreal and the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec, where the show is set. Mohawk Girls’ final season will air on APTN in fall 2017.
The series was nominated for multiple Canadian Screen Awards for the last two years running, including Best Comedy Series, Best Direction in a Comedy Series, Best Writing in a Comedy Series, and Best Actress in a Comedy Series. And this year, actress Brittany LeBorgne was nominated in the Fan’s Choice category.
Mohawk Girls takes a comedic look at the lives of four modern-day women trying to stay true to their roots while navigating sex, work, love and what it means to be Mohawk in the 21st century. Set in Kahnawake, the half-hour dramedy follows these twenty-something women as they begin to forge their own identity within a community embedded with rules and cultural traditions.
This season, Bailey deals with the repercussions of leaving Mohawk fiancé Watio in favour of white guy James. Zoe gets out of rehab for sex addiction but the pressure to get back into her community’s good graces — leads her to the brink of relapse. Caitlin enjoys the highs of being back in a relationship with Butterhead. But when she’s reminded of the lows, Caitlin can’t quite bring herself to fully break it off with her former flame Leon. And Anna finally gets everything she’s always wanted – total acceptance into this community. But it comes at a high cost that she’s not sure she’s willing to pay.
The dynamic cast of four leading women includes returning cast members Jenny Pudavick (Bailey), Brittany LeBorgne (Zoe), Heather White (Caitlin), and Maika Harper (Anna). Meegwun Fairbrother (Butterhead), Jimmy Blais (Watio) and Shawn Youngchief (Ohserase), Dwain Murphy (Leon) reprise their roles as the men they love. Also returning, Tantoo Cardinal as Zoe’s mom, Glen Gould as Bailey’s father and Jeffrey Wetsch as James.
Mohawk Girls is created and executive produced by Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight; Tracey Deer directs the episodes and Cynthia Knight is the head writer. The series is produced by Rezolution Pictures’ Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon and Linda Ludwick, and executive produced by Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick and Ernest Webb. Innovate By Day is the Digital Media Producer. Monika Ille is the Executive Director, Programming and Scheduling for APTN.
About Rezolution Pictures
The series is developed and produced by Rezolution Pictures’ Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon and Linda Ludwick, and executive produced by Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick and Ernest Webb, the same team that produced the multiple-Gemini and Peabody Award-winning film, Reel Injun, as well as several award-winning documentaries and television series including Smoke Traders, Club Native, and Down The Mighty River. Rezolution Pictures’ feature film RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World has won several awards, including the Sundance Festival’s World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling and the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the Hot Docs Festival.
Rezolution Pictures is an award-winning film, television and interactive media production company, founded by Catherine Bainbridge and Ernest Webb, which plays a vital role in bringing cultural diversity to the North American broadcasting landscape. Since 2001 it has built itself a reputation for creating acclaimed series and one-of-a-kind productions, working with many of Canada’s best new and established talents to create unique comedy, dramatic, non-fiction and video game programming, through its sister company Minority Media.