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SUMMER 2017

 11

Hollywood indignities like Johnny Depp

playing Tonto in

The Lone Ranger

or cur-

rent Canadian television productions that

have non-Indigenous actors playing the

parts of Indigenous people.

But, in spite of thosemisappropriations,

we have come a long way. I remember the

moment when I was seated in front of the

TV and Buffy Sainte-Marie appeared on

Sesame Street

. The profound impact that

experience had onmy life and career can’t

be measured, but I can tell you it was the

first time I had the thought, “oh, I could be

on TV too.”

As the tide started to change, more and

more incredible Indigenous actors found

their way through the politics into film

and TV roles. Those roles weren’t always

perfect and very rarely were they written

froman Indigenous perspective, but those

ground-breaking actors persevered and

became the rolemodels of the young actors

who are lighting up the screens today.

Tantoo Cardinal was presentedwith the

2015 ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence

and recently the Academy presented her

with the Earle Grey Canadian ScreenAward.

Two years ago she received the inaugural

August Schellenberg Award at the Imagi-

NATIVE film festival. This year ACTRA

named Tina KeeperWoman of the Year. I’m

so happy to see these people honoured for

their impressive and important bodies of

work. I amalways proudof GlenGould, from

my own nation, who appeared in over 30

television and film roles in his long career.

In 1992,

North of 60

brought Indigenous

centered drama into the homes of city and

suburban residents alike. Ahigh percentage

of the cast were activists, including Order

of Canada humanitarian TomJackson and

(former) MP Tina Keeper. A number of tal-

ented youth performers got their start on

N60

such as Nathaniel Arcand, AdamBeach,

Dakota House and Michelle Thrush. The

hugely successful series ran for six seasons

on CBC plus several TV movies. 

This article, however, is not about those

well-established icons of theCanadianenter-

tainment industry, but instead a celebra-

tion of the new guard. A new generation of

actors who are being blessed with parts

actually written by Indigenous writers and

they are certainly making the most of

these opportunities.

Tracey Deer is no stranger to Indigenous

people. After a lifetime of watching docu-

mentaries about us but by “other”, Tracey hit

the scene with documentaries like

Mohawk

Girls

and

Club Native

, which really gave

voice to the experience of being young,

Indigenous and female. But then she pushed

the boundary one step further and created

the television series

Mohawk Girls

, which

has proven to be a huge hit for the Aborig-

inal People’s Television Network (APTN).

The series has created an opportunity

for the lead actors to really shine in roles

both complicated and real. The series is

a dramedy based around four 20-some-

thing women trying to figure out how to

be Mohawk women in the 21 century. Brit-

tany LeBorgne, Heather White, Maika

Harper and Jenny Pudavick are not only

visually-diverse but also portray characters

as diverse as Indigenous people truly are.

In an interview with LeBorgne a few

years ago, I asked her about the sexual

scenes she has played in the series, and

howher family and friends have responded.

Open discussions of sexuality, historically

so common in our communities, have

been stifled by the double-edged sword of

colonization and Christianization.

LeBorgne laughed and shared that she

does get calls from the grannies and aunties

after some of the episodes, but she also

knows how important it is to her generation

As I grew up, I came to realize the confusion

stemmed from the fact that those actors were

not actually Indigenous, but instead actors

of other races badly depicting us.