In July of 2017, I caught up with the cast and crew of APTN’s Wild Archaeology while they were shooting Season 2 episodes in Southern Ontario. The day I arrived on set, hosts Dr. Rudy Reimer, Jenifer Brousseau and Jacob Pratt were on location at the Longhouse in Ohsweken, Six Nations. Despite the humidity Southern Ontario summers are known for, inside this structure there was a cool breeze and if I could bottle the scent of sun warmed freshly hewn lumber, I would be the happiest of campers on earth!
I decided to speak with co-host Jacob Pratt first.
How has the show surprised you? Jacob Pratt: I always thought the show was aimed at an older audience, late teens and older. But from what I have seen, a lot of kids aged 8-10 are really into the show. They have been really engaged by it. I think that is really surprising for me because it is expanding the intended viewership, not just older teens but a very young audience which is really cool to see.
And, how have you surprised yourself? I think they wanted me on the show because of my cultural understanding, and I have a good understanding of my own culture [Dakota], but I know about the Cree, and the Haudenosawnee because I have lived in the areas. So in general, I feel very competent about knowing other First Nations cultures. But, throughout last season, I was actually surprised with the number of similarities about other nations that I didn’t know about and the absolute ignorance I had in terms of the Inuit or the Inuvialuit and things like the whale blubber. It was really interesting. That was a surprise too: I never thought I would like whale blubber, but I do, especially with HP Sauce. There are things like that. I always thought I was very culturally aware but I keep finding things that are brand new, that surprise me.
For me, this is a journey of adding to my cultural understanding and actually that is one of my passions, learning about other people’s cultures because it makes me a more understanding person in my life in general. I really, really liked learning the things that I would never have imagined like here in Ontario. Stories that tell how long ago the Great Lakes were lower and then a beaver dam broke and they filled up very quickly. Now scientists are talking about how the lake levels were much lower and, 60 feet down, there are caribou runs. They talk about when that water did fill up, it filled up very quickly. For me, it was amazing hearing these traditional stories I have always heard, then hearing these stories that unknowingly scientists are backing up these stories. It is really giving weight to our oral history. Because scientists are now telling the stories that we have been telling for thousands of years. That to me is I think what hit me the most during Season 1.
Next, I sat down with show creator, producer, writer, Tracy German, to get a feel for what we can expect this season.
Your message in Season 1 was very clear: take the oral histories from various nations and verify that history through archaeological discovery. Moving forward into Season 2, how are your expanding upon that theme? Tracy German: Moving on in Season 2, we are going to continue doing what we do well. So, yes, we still connect the stories to real people and culture. We start with the inspiration from an oral teaching from an elder and then try to find the link to the archaeological record. In Season 2, we plan to incorporate more experimental archaeology. Like we just saw in the Longhouse, Kerdo Deer of Kayanase was demonstrating the traditional rope making. It is another form of reclamation and it is about learning the use of traditional medicines and plants and techniques. I think we will be going further into that in Season 2, and I hope we will be getting a bit more political or edgier as we move forward; pushing into ideas of repatriation and sacredness. Topics like #noDAPL and water; there are so many avenues. Gas and fracking, whatever, there are multiple fronts where we can act as activists for Indigenous people. When opportunities like that arise naturally and organically, and we can contribute to the cause, we will definitely be incorporating that into our storytelling. This season, I am starting with my journey, as a woman and where I am from. This is my home turf – Six Nations and my ancestry on my mother’s side is Haudenosawnee. We are starting in the Longhouse in a matriarchal culture. Already that is starting out political. And our camera operator in there, Jon Elliott, is Tuscarora and his family is from here. There are always multiple reasons why we start where we do but I do like telling the strong matriarchal story and I think that will come out in the grandmothers and the teachings of the strong womenfolk across the country.
I also had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Rudy Reimer, Ph.D., of Simon Fraser University.
How has this experience, as a teacher, as a professor, influenced your life in academia? Dr. Rudy Reimer: That’s a good question. Filming and being on the set of WA is a really interesting experience in terms of personally looking at the archaeology across Canada. When I lecture, some things are a little abstract and having the opportunity to come to places like Six Nations here, and other locations, allows me to put what I have read into context and more appropriately getting to experience the local First Nations first-hand, talking to community members, getting their perspective, and their history as opposed to what you would get in a standard textbook. What that allows me to do is integrate that into how I teach and lecture, but also it has been beneficial at another level. Each episode is pretty much the equivalent to a publication, and it really helps me professionally. Personally interacting with my crew and interacting with my co-hosts, still being in the role of an educator, for each episode makes for a great experience all around.
What are you most looking forward to this season? This season, we are here in Ontario for two episodes and then we are back on the west coast. I believe we are going to Sechelt, B.C., and then to northern British Columbia. It doesn’t matter where we go, because I look forward to each set and each episode. It is really fun to arrive because I know the archaeologists, I know their research, and what is really exciting for me is, again, to see that first hand, and to interact with my colleagues, fellow academics but also, people in the communities. For example, we are at the lacrosse games yesterday during North American Indigenous Games 2017, and just sitting in the stands talking to the local community. I wore a t-shirt with some Squamish words on it and I got some funny looks but then people come up and talk to you. Everyone is wearing local lacrosse jerseys or t-shirts, so it is a cultural experience and an academic experience at each location.
Finally, I caught up with co-host Jenifer Brousseau and followed up with a theme we touched on last season when I last spoke with her.
When we last spoke, you discussed your experiences in both the Longhouse in the B.C. interior and the teepee at Head-Smashed-In with Reg Crowshoe. In Season 2 you have spent some time in the Longhouse at the Museum of Archaeology in London, Ont., and now this amazing structure here at Kayanase. How are these experiences in these structures weaving into the fabric of your own personal journey of reclamation? Jenifer Brousseau: I find coming here really neat because when I come home to Ontario and connect to the land here, it is always so very different. I personally feel that a lot of my reclamation has happened on the West Coast. If you ever go to the West Coast and connect with the people there, you recognize how proud they are as a people to be Indigenous. I experienced a lot less of that growing up in Ontario. Now coming back and having the opportunity to go to the Aanishnawbeg Longhouse in London—which is closer to my own heritage—and learning things [I did not while] growing up is a journey. Going to the big house on the West Coast as opposed to the Longhouse here it is almost like getting to be a part of things here that were initially lost. Having spent time in the west, reclaiming parts of my identity to return home to start Season 2 and learning about all of these things that for me at home were covered as I grew up, I get to uncover them both on the show. That is what is so fabulous about my journey this upcoming season.
My thanks go to Tracy German for allowing me the opportunity to visit your set. And to Jacob, Dr. Rudy and Jenifer, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Miigwetch.
Wild Archaeology returns Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.
Thunderbird Entertainment Group Inc. (TSXV:TBRD) (“Thunderbird” or the “Company”), is excited to announce a second season of the hit series Queen of the Oil Patch, has been ordered by national broadcaster APTN. The critically acclaimed documentary series is produced by Thunderbird, a global multiplatform entertainment company, in collaboration with Kah-Kitowak Films. Production is now underway in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
Queen of the Oil Patch received strong reviews for its groundbreaking coverage of the inspirational journey of one man with two spirits – Massey Whiteknife and Iceis Rain. Whiteknife is an openly gay Indigenous entrepreneur. After his multi-million-dollar oil empire in Fort McMurray was devastated by the collapse of oil prices and the 2016 wildfires, Whiteknife worked to rebuild his life with the help of his other spirit, Iceis Rain, a fearless female pop singer and anti-bullying advocate.
The first season of Queen of the Oil Patch was nominated for Best Writing in a Factual Series at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards, and Best Screenwriting in a Documentary Series at the 2019 Leo Awards. It was also well received by critics, with John Doyle of The Globe and Mail writing: “Queen of the Oil Patch is…truly distinct, about a true original. And truly inspiring. This is wonderful TV.” Additionally, Rachna Raj Kaur from NOW Toronto called it “a great entryway into the life of a man breaking down boundaries, but also an insightful look into a community unseen on mainstream TV.”
Queen of the Oil Patch Season Two will air in Fall 2020, and will feature eight episodes.
A year ago, First Contact debuted on APTN. The three-night broadcast event explored Indigenous culture through the eyes of six Canadians. Narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos, First Contact followed those six on a 28-day adventure to Winnipeg, Nunavut, Alberta, Northern Ontario and the coast of B.C. to visit Indigenous communities to challenge their preconceived notions and prejudices.
Now, First Contact returns for a second season. Hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos and broadcast over three nights—Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on APTN—it once again seeks to inform and educate Canadians about First Nations people, culture and beliefs, and rid them of some preconceptions along the way. In my preview of Season 1, I wrote about growing up in Brantford, Ont. Located close to the Six Nations of the Grand River, I heard the awful, racist jokes uttered by more than one person in that city. In Season 2, a fellow Brantfordian takes part.
Sixty-two-year-old Larry Harris works in shipping and receiving and enters First Contact believing anything bad that befalls Indigenous Peoples are their own fault. So, does he change his tune over the 28-day experience? Certainly not within the first few minutes. Larry voices the opinion we are still shouldering the guilt for those who took the land away from the First Nations. Participants Brennan Kovic and Laurianne Bencharski say similar things, the latter that anytime a white person speaks about Indigenous Peoples they’re labelled a racist.
Twenty-six-year-old Samantha Whitehead, meanwhile, has a different view. She has never met a member of the First Nations and is genuinely interested in being educated. As for Jackson Way, the 19-year-old from Midland, Ont.—who hopes to teach history one day—believes taking benefits away from Indigenous Peoples will force the community “to work to get certain things.” He wonders if the current system is trying to make up for what happened in the past.
The six head to Kanesatake, QC, and learn the other side of the story of the 1990 Oka Siege—a very different tale from what Larry tells Brennan and Samantha on the bus there—and then in Natuashish, Labrador, time spent with the local Innu Peoples sheds new light on its residents and history.
In Episode 2, the six participants travel to Thunder Bay, where a number of incidents have exposed racist attitudes towards Indigenous Peoples prior to a meeting with residential school survivors in southern Ontario.
In the emotionally charged final episode, the six travel to Saskatchewan. Once there, they meet with people from communities deeply affected by the death and trial of Colten Boushie. At the conclusion of Episode 3, the Indigenous hosts and producers will sit down in an interactive panel, live on Facebook
First Contact airs Tuesday-Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on APTN.
In association with Animiki See Digital Production, Nüman Films and Indios Productions, APTN announced today that it will premiere season two of the documentary-series, First Contact as a three-night television event on APTN starting September 17 at 8 p.m. ET/CT/MT.
The series will continue with episode two on Wednesday, September 18 and episode three on Thursday, September 19. Following the third episode on Thursday, September 19 at 8 p.m. ET/CT/MT, the travelers and some of the Indigenous hosts and producers will sit down in an interactive panel, live on Facebook.
Following the success of season one, this brand-new season once again takes six Canadians, all with varied opinions about Indigenous Peoples, on a unique 28-day exploration of Indigenous communities. The three-part series, narrated by host and social justice activist George Stroumboulopoulos, has proven to be a compelling exploration into Indigenous culture in Canada.
The participants will have their lives turned upside down, their perceptions challenged and their prejudices confronted in this three-part series. This journey will change their lives forever.
The six travelers’ life-changing, 28-day journey into Indigenous communities starts in Kanesatake, QC. The participants are exposed to a new perspective about the Oka Siege and then in Natuashish, Labrador, time spent with the local Innu Peoples sheds new light on its residents and history.
In episode two, the six participants travel south to Thunder Bay, where a number of tragic incidents have exposed racist attitudes towards Indigenous people. Then, a meeting with residential school survivors in southern Ontario shocks the travelers.
In the final episode, the group travels to northern Saskatchewan and face their biggest test yet. There, they meet with people from communities deeply affected by the death and trial of Colten Boushie. Finally, the group travels to Yukon, where self-governance is helping a community flourish.
Indigenous educators and storytellers include:
Ian Campeau, formerly of a Tribe Called Red
Colleen Cardinal, Sixties Scoop survivor
Ellen Gabriel and Elder John Cree, Front line community members at the Oka Siege
Stephanie MacLaurin, community host in Fort William First Nation
Becky Sasakamoose Kuffner, race relations coordinator in Saskatoon
Eleanore Sunchild, legal council for the Boushie family
Debbie Baptiste, Colten Boushie’s mother
Season 2 began filming in August 2018, prior to the release of season 1.
The following six participants will leave their everyday lives behind to visit Indigenous communities across Canada:
Brennen is outspoken, loyal, honest, and is known for being a jokester. Brennen straddles political lines; he feels strongly about LGBTQ+ rights, housing and health care, and believes in being fiscally conservative. He considers himself a person who is helpful and treats people with respect. As a first-generation, Croatian immigrant whose family has seen great success in Canada, he feels that Indigenous Peoples lack the necessary work ethic to succeed, and instead choose to blame others for their problems.
Location: Midland, Ont.
An East Coast resident, Jackson Way has been attending school in Nova Scotia for the last year studying history. But this 19-year-old animal lover calls Ontario home. Jackson has a passion for history and politics and is a creative person. He loves poetry, playing guitar, songwriting and singing, and theatre. He has strong opinions about Indigenous Peoples and feels they receive special treatment. He loves to learn, feels strongly about social responsibility and is always up for a healthy debate.
Location: Prince Albert, Sask.
Occupation: Former Corrections Officer
Laurianne is a very active person and is interested in a variety of recreational activities. In her free time, she loves to ride on her ski doo or quad, curl, slow pitch, and spend time at her cabin. Living in Prince Albert, where 40% of the population is Indigenous, she has experienced many negative interactions and feels like a victim. This has led to her harbouring many negative feelings toward Indigenous Peoples.
Location: Brantford, Ont.
Occupation: Shipping and Receiving
Outgoing and charming, Larry is an opinionated man with a fun-loving exterior. But he holds strong stereotypical views towards Indigenous Peoples and sees them as angry and greedy. Mostly, he feels they are to blame for any hardships they face, and the rest of society has to pay for it. In his free time, Larry loves to spend time at the cottage, fishing, hunting, and cycling.
When asked how others would describe her, Stephanie said they would call her a dreamer, someone who thinks unconventionally, is friendly and optimistic. Samantha grew up in a tight-knit family and describes her childhood as ‘quite perfect.’ Growing up in the suburbs, she has admittedly grown up in a very sheltered world. Not only does she know nothing about Indigenous Peoples or culture, she claims to have never even met an Indigenous person in her life.
Location: Tyndall, Man.
Occupation: Stay-at-home mother and co-owner of a trucking business
Stephanie and her family spend lots of time on the road and love traveling to tropical locations during the cold Manitoba winters. Living near Winnipeg, she associates being Indigenous with homelessness, addiction and crime. But, she has recently discovered that she herself has Métis heritage. However, her interest in this discovery has nothing to do with fostering a cultural or spiritual connection. Instead, she is interested in only using it to obtain perceived “perks” for her children.
First Contact is produced by Animiki See Digital Production, Nüman Films and Indios Productions, with the financial participation of the Canada Media Fund. Producers are Vanessa Loewen and Desiree Single from Animiki, Jeff Newman and Jocelyn Mitchell from Nüman Films, and Stephanie Scott from Indios Productions. This series is written and directed by Jeff Newman.