Planting Stories, Feeding Communities: Knowledge, Indigenous Peoples and Film
Chaput, Paul Joseph Andre
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This dissertation, a companion to the documentary film Planting Stories, Feeding Communities, explores how film can be used to transmit information generated by an Indigenous community during research and return it in a manner that most closely approximates the multi-sensorial scope of the oral tradition. Of all modern forms of communication, I argue that film is the medium that lies closest to the mode of Indigenous storytelling. My dissertation explores film as a means of reporting findings back to the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, whose members played key roles in the history of Native Studies in Ontario – hitherto the focus of my MA research. Throughout, the most pertinent question has remained: What are the “best practices” – under the current circumstances – that can be put in place to ensure that colonial approaches, imposition of harmful outside authority foremost of all, are not perpetuated? Bridging the gulf between my Indigenous and European ancestry requires a leap of faith from both sides. Lee Maracle, a writer of the Stó:lō Nation, describes the dilemma as “a basket in the middle of the bridge into which each side can contribute their accumulated light and teachings” (SAGE Writing Retreat, February 22, 2014). My contribution to the basket, I trust, is acceptance of a number of best practices revealed through collaborative research, which might contribute to increased transmission of academic findings to Indigenous communities. Procedures rooted in community-based participatory research (CBPR) offer an array of best practices that proved pivotal to maintaining a balanced relationship between the researcher and those who are researched, ensuring that (as much as possible) control of the process rests with the community. Members of Six Nations expressed their opinions on camera in (i) a Community Circle and (ii) interviews with the key subjects. Subsequently, we collaborated to create a film to tell their story. “Best practices,” therefore, highlight ways in which film as a means of pedagogy can be used to transmit information to Indigenous communities in a manner that resembles and echoes the oral tradition.