#92, our oral histories, our oral stories are our truth
This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my friend and mentor the anthropologist and scholar of indigenous media, Faye Ginsburg, the Director of the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU, Co-Director of the NYU Council for the Study of Disability, and Co-Director of the Center for Religion and Media.
“I encourage readers of #100hardtruths to spend time with the incredible short stop-motion animation films of First Nations artist and storyteller Amanda Strong, an Indigenous Michif/Metis filmmaker and media artist from the unceded Coast Salish territory also known as Vancouver.
Her most recent work, Four Faces of the Moon, opened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Landscapes of Truth section at Canada’s imagineNative festival, both in 2016. The piece, like many of the Vancouver artist’s short films, is a hybrid, surreal but profoundly grounded work made with figures and tabletop sets that blend a steampunk and Indigenous aesthetic with First Nations histories and contemporary concerns. Four Faces is a tightly compressed (12 min) and moving account, “peeling back layers of Canadian colonial history,” based on Strong’s own family, beginning with the knowledge passed down from her grandmother Olivine Tiedema Bousquet, a former senator for the Métis Nation of Ontario. We see ghostly accountings of the buffalo hunts of the 1880s, and how mass extermination of the animal was ultimately tied to the systemic destruction of the Indigenous communities who depended on it for survival. The story is told with minimal dialogue in the languages of her ancestors (French, Michif, Anishnaabe, Cree), beginning and ending its time-travelling journey in the present day.
Her 2015 8 minute film made with Bracken Hanuse Corlert, Mia, is a story about environmental destruction affecting Indigenous communities in another part of the world, 2000 miles from from the Standing Rock struggle, telling a west coast version of the challenges to First Nations water protectors, through the story of a girl, Mia (salmon). The film begins with a haunting urban cityscape. Indigenous street artist Mia roams the streets before she encounters sacred waters and hand drawn salmon; she eventually joins them, shape-shifting across species.
Her work Haida Raid 3: Save Our Waters, invites us to join forces with protests against of super tankers moving through Haida Gwaii waters. And there are more, all extraordinary reminders of the many ways to tell important truths. As Strong explains: “Our oral histories, our oral stories are our truth.”
- Spotted Fawn Productions
- Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, Brian Larkin, eds.
- Indigenous Rising
- World Indigenous Television Broadcast Network