AbTeC RA RE-CAP: imagineNATIVE 20

Wao Kanaka, Ękwehę:we: The Real People, Terra Nova, and Karihonniennihtshera were all showcased in the iNDigital Space at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at the 20th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto Ontario.

imagineNATIVE 20 Re-cap by Maize Longboat, Associate Director of Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Digital Media.

Terra Nova installed in the iNDigital Space at imagineNATIVE 20. Image courtesy of Maize Longboat.

Late-October is a special time for Indigenous artists. imagineNATIVE is the world’s largest Indigenous film and digital media festival that honours the work of creative Natives from around the globe. This year, the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary and did so in style by revamping its digital media programming and the iNDigital Space. The iNDigital Space featured an impressive roster of video games, apps, audio works, 360-degree videos, and virtual reality experiences. I was honoured to show my first gameTerra Nova, alongside so many incredibly talented digital media makers in such a beautiful space.

Video Game Events

Presenters at ‘Night of the Indigenous Devs.’ Image courtesy of Victoria Cooke.

Several artist talks took place during the week and were moderated by Meagan Byrne imagineNATIVE’s Digital + Interactive Coordinator. I participated in the Video Game Artist Talk representing Terra Nova alongside the game’s Artist and Animator, Ray Caplin. The talk was a great opportunity to hear fellow game developers present their exciting work and to engage with an audience interested in the behind-the-scenes processes of game-making.

On Friday evening Meagan hosted ‘Night of the Indigenous Devs;’ a live game-playing event that presented six games from the iNDigital Space onto the big screen. Both myself and Ray presented Terra Nova while keen volunteers played. The event offered a means for contextualizing and reflecting on the development process though dialogue with the audience. I really appreciated having the opportunity to share Terra Nova in a unique way that was just as dynamic and engaging for the audience as it was for the players.

Awards Ceremony

Maize Longboat accepting the award for Terra Nova as the “Best Emerging Digital or Interactive Work” at imagineNATIVE 20. Image courtesy of Anthony Makokis.

The festival wrapped up with an awards ceremony hosted by the hilarious Anishinaabe comedian and podcaster Ryan McMahon. To my surprise, Terra Nova was selected as the winner for the “Best Emerging Digital or Interactive Work” award among several impressive competitors! To top it all off, one of my idols, Anthony Makokis—who won this year’s season of The Amazing Race Canada with their partner James Makokis—presented the award! I have nothing but gratitude for everyone who supported the project throughout. I owe so much to the Terra Nova team, including Ray Caplin, Mehrdad Dehdashti, and Beatrix Moersch—without them the game would not have been possible to make. Niawen’kó:wa for this incredible honour!

imagineNATIVE 20’s incredible medallion award, created by MAD AUNTY! Image courtesy of Victoria Cooke.

3D Printed Inspirations by Waylon Wilson, Research Assistant for AbTeC/IIF.

‘Gathering Across Moana’ curated by GLAM with Noor Bhangu at the 20th imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, at 401 Richmond Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Kereama Taepa, Te Arawa, Te Atiawa Maori from Aotearoa / New Zealand. The Sounds of Our Ancestors, 2018, Two-Channel Projection and 3D Print.

Each year the annual Indigenous film and media arts festival ImagineNATIVE hosts an art crawl where festival goers can visit a series of art exhibitions curated by Indigenous people. During this tour I came across The Sounds of Our Ancestors, 2018 by Kereama Taepa, this artwork really stood out to me as a media-maker engaging with new technology.

In this work a looping video projection shows a front-facing view of a bee flapping its wings. Electronic sounds of high pitched motors and beeps can be heard overhead. Hanging from the ceiling in front of the projector is a 3D printed object detailed with iconic depictions of Maori culture.

When I first approached The Sounds of Our Ancestors I thought the sounds I heard were coming from a common table-top scanner. Upon looking closer I realized the hanging object had been 3D printed, I began to recognize the audio to be the sound of a 3D printer. A 3D printer works by placing thin layers of plastic on top of each other, while the process occurs you can hear the buzzing of the tiny motors inside the machine. Taepa compares the buzzing of a 3D printer working in real-time, to the buzzing of bees.

Kereama Taepa, The Sounds of Our Ancestors, 2018, Two-Channel Projection and 3D Print.

I am familiar with some of Taepa’s previous work with 3D printing. Taepa talks about 3D printing as being a constructive process in which layers of plastic are added together in order to create an object. He contrasts this to carving, which is a deconstructive process where materials are taken away. He compares the constructive process of 3D printing to the process of a bee building its hive, it does so by adding layers, upon layers of material together over time.

I think Taepa’s work is a great example of how Indigenous perspectives bring new ideas into the digital world. For anyone interested in new ways of thinking about digital fabrication and Indigenous technological influences I highly recommend this artist’s work.

imagineNATIVE 20 Re-cap by Ray Caplin, Research Assistant for AbTeC/IIF.

Ray Caplin presenting Terra Nova with Maize Longboat, during ‘Night of the Indigenous Devs’ at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the 20th imagineNATIVE Film and Digital Arts Festival in Toronto, Ontario.

My experience at imagineNATIVE this year was mostly focused on video game and digital media workshops. I contributed to two video game projects which were featured inside of the iNDigital space. The iNDigital space was dedicated to showcasing video games created by Indigenous game developers. My work was featured in Wao Kanaka, and Terra Nova, I made art and animation for both games. I was very pleased to see both games in the iNDigal space, I feel each year this portion of imagineNATIVE is growing ever so slightly.

I also presented at ‘Night of Indigenous Devs’ which was an hour long panel and interactive discussion. Six Indigenous game developers presented their work on the big screen and volunteers from the audience played them. The response from the audience for Terra Nova was very positive and engaging. I found it very interesting to see how much emerging game related media was presented at this primarily film based festival.

imagineNATIVE 20 Re-cap by Kahentawaks Tiewishaw, Research Assistant for AbTeC/IIF.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw outside of the iNDigital Space in the TIFF Bell Lightbox at the 20th annual imagineNATIVE Film + Digital Arts Festival in Toronto, Ontario.

ImagineNATIVE was particularly awesome this year because it was my first time attending as a Guest Artist! Being able to be there as both a Research Assistant, and an independent creator was a remarkable experience. Not only could I take pride in the work I had done on Karihonniennihtshera, I was also able to bask in the fact that I was one of many AbTeC/IIF members who had work showing at the festival! You hear little bits about what everyone is working on all the time, so it was pretty amazing to see the end results as a part of the same exhibition. That was probably the best part of the festival for me. I can’t wait to see what we all do moving forward!

imagineNATIVE Festival 2019 by Anastasia Erickson, Research Coordinator for AbTeC/IIF.

Anastasia Erickson wearing some official imagineNATIVE 20 merchandise.

For one week each autumn, the TIFF Lightbox transforms into a space that welcomes filmmakers, digital media creators, and media enthusiasts for the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.  This October, I was lucky enough to attend for the first time.

While the entire week was a whirlwind of fantastic art, fruitful new connections, inclusivity, and learning, what stood out to me the most was the feeling I had during and after the screening of one film in particular, Vai.  Truly a tour de force, Vai is a feature-length film directed by eight different women from various Pacific cultures, following the life of one woman from early childhood through her life and into her elder years.  Beautifully shot, the film was well-paced and engaging, and the use of eight distinct actresses in the portrayal of one character allowed for the audience to envision themselves in the narrative.  

I watched this in the company of two female friends, and we each were in tears by the time the end credits began.  It was a moving, empowering piece of art, and it made us feel proud to be strong women; yet, while it was a treasure to experience, it was simultaneously painful to process.  I do not identify as being Indigenous to anywhere, as a biracial and diasporic Black American. My own heritage has been lost for a number of reasons, but most especially due to colonial violence and neglect; to be able to reflect on this melancholy during and after Vai was precious and important to me.  There has always been a yearning to connect to the root of my root, to understand the cultures which my ancestors participated in and contributed to.  Thus it was such a tender and bittersweet thing to bear witness to the passing down of long-held traditions through generations of Pacific women. Scenes of coming of age ceremonies and of communal customs are powerful images of resilience and kinship!  

Though I may not have the same access to my roots as Vai’s filmmakers, it was still magical to be surrounded by a welcoming and diverse Indigenous community at the festival. 

Underneath the Danglers by Alaina Perez, Research Assistant for AbTeC/IIF.

The imagineNATIVE Film + Digital Arts Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year in Toronto, Ontario. This was my first time attending and I was struck by the volume of festival programming that was organized. One of the events I was most looking forward to was the art crawl. I was eager to familiarize myself with the various installations exhibited in the 401 Richmond Building.

One exhibition I was particularly interested in was curated by DAPHNE, members including Skawennati, Hannah Claus, Nadia Myre and Caroline Monnet, all incredible Indigenous women artists I admire. DAPHNE curated ‘Constructive Interference’ an exhibition by Wendat artist Ludovic Boney. Having only seen the promotional image included in the event details, I was curious to see what other artwork would be accompanying the polychromatic danglers that were so pleasantly suspended from the ceiling.

Ludovic Boney, Under the Catkins, 2018. Image by Alaina Perez.

When I popped into the DAPHNE exhibit I was quite taken with Ludovic Boney’s Why So Many Ties? The presentation of the piece was straightforward, hundreds of metal sticks protruding from a wooden platform—each with a segment of a plastic shopping bag attached to it like a small flag. The wooden platform was destabilized making walking a bit precarious. The precarity of each step became even more exaggerated by the cacophony of creaks composed by Yannik Plamondon and Benoit Fortier which amplified every foot-forward by what seemed like 100 decibels.

I was anxious about my giant bag thwacking the sticks as I passed along the pathway. I was worried that I would damage the artwork, I was also a bit fixed on the very slight possibility of a stick hitting me in the face, (I am a humble 5’3.5, putting the sticks in a perfect eye-poking position). I loved how uncomfortable I was. I find visceral and affectual exhibition experiences to be a captivating strategy for engaging the viewer. I really enjoyed the uniqueness of this installation and after walking through the pathway I realized that the motion of my body left a reverberating effect on the sticks, they continued to sway long after my body passed. When looking at the swaying of the sticks I realized that their construction was intended to evoke the motion of bulrushes or similar brush.

Ludovic Boney, Why So Many Ties? 2017. Video by Alaina Perez.

When I revisited the exhibit during the art crawl artist Ludovik Boney was present and he discussed the installation. Hannah Claus asked about his choice of materials, particularly the bags, he responded in a completely unexpected way. I was expecting some sort of talk of environmentalism or something of a similar dimension. He explained that over the years every time he visits his mother she gives him food or some other item mothers give their children, and every time she does so she puts it in a plastic bag and double knots it. When Boney goes to open this gift from his mother he has to violently tear it open because the knots have been tied too tight. After many years of this he has ended up with a large collection of unusable plastic bags. He wasn’t sure what to do with them so he found a way to incorporate them into his art practice. I thought this was hilarious, seeing the extent of this collection of completely useless bags, I could feel the frustration of being in such a predicament. One would eventually have to adapt and learn how to use these collected ephemera in order to avoid their inconvenience. It was sweet to think about how Boney doesn’t want to tell his mother to change, choosing rather to adapt himself to her idiosyncrasies. It was charming to know that each of these sticks have manifested from a place of love and total frustration—a common phenomenon in many parent-child relationships.

imagineNATIVE 2018 Screening and Performance Reviews

Last month a number of our lab members travelled to the 19th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, ON to take in the proceedings and represent IIF/AbTeC. From a wide array of amazing events, Undergraduate Research Assistants Ray Tqoqweg Caplin, Kahentawaks Tiewishaw and Graduate Research Assistants Maize Longboat and Waylon Wilson each chose a screening or artist talk to report on.

Hope to see you next year at the 20th anniversary of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival!

The Witching Hour

Friday, October 19

Ray Tqogweg Caplin

This was my first time ever attending the ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival. Expecting to see various great works from many talented Indigenous filmmakers, I was indeed not disappointed. Throughout the festival, many screenings had an atmosphere of Fine Art and professionalism; this, combined with the many films I had seen talking about hard, depressing topics, left me with a sober, sombre mood. That is, until the campy yet devious Witching Hour.

Expecting an hour of exclusively spooky, cautionary tales, I was delighted to find campy, B-film, budget short films, each of which made me laugh out loud with the audience! I was particularly charmed by three machinima shorts of one to two minutes in length, the first of which was entitled First Impressions, by Sto:lo / Cree artist Andrew Genaille. In it, a woman is frightened at the sight of a zombie, who then addresses her assumptions that because he is dead, and a zombie, his place is in the ground, and that he is not a normal person. He proclaims that he is and thus educates her to not cast judgment on others so hastily. To say the least, it’s a subversion gag … and I loved it.

The Witching Hour was definitely one of my favourite screenings; its tricky, kitschy tone was a relief from other, more sombre films, which is fine by me. What’s more, I’m hoping to submit one of my short films to this film block next year!

Alanis Obomsawin: In Discussion

October 18, 2018

Maize Longboat

On the evening of Thursday, October 18, the legendary Abanaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin joined the festival program for an interview with Kerry Swanson, Chair of the imagineNATIVE Board of Directors. Obomsawin began by screening an excerpt from her forthcoming film, entitled Jordan’s Principle, that chronicles the story of Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy born in 1999 with complex medical needs. Jordan’s medical treatment was delayed because federal and provincial governments could not decide on who was responsible for paying and he eventually died in hospital at the age of five, having never lived in his family home. His story sparked policy and legal changes, namely Jordan’s Principle, which saw the federal government adopt a child-first policy to support children with disabilities in the future. As of 2016, Jordan’s Principle is now law in Canada, available to all First Nations children. However, these services remain difficult to access and Alanis Obomsawin’s film seeks to bring attention to Jordan’s story in hopes that it will help others in similar situations.

The discussion wasn’t only limited to talking about her films. For much of the second half of the session, Alanis told a story about her efforts to raise funds to create a pool for the children of her community, Odanak First Nation, before she began to make films. Since the nearby Québécois town would not allow Indigenous children to enter their pool, the only solution was that Odanak build its own. Through her hard work, determination, and help from others, Alanis was able to finally get the pool built. Ironically, when the neighbouring pool closed, Québécois children were welcomed to swim in the new pool at Odanak.

My main takeaways from Alanis Obomsawin’s interview were her wit and her generosity. She had the crowd laughing all the way through her stories, which she recounted in detail. Her strength as a person and as an issue-oriented filmmaker is profoundly inspiring and every bit deserving of the standing ovation she received at the conclusion of this discussion.

After The Apology

Saturday, October 20

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

This screening included Lost Moccasin by Roger Boyer, Idle No More Ginger Cote, and Larissa Behrendt’s After the Apology. Together, these films brought to light the ongoing struggle of families who have been subjected to colonial government policies. In North America, we know of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop, which worked to assimilate Indigenous children by removing them from their families and culture. Similarly in Australia there were the Stolen Generations, in which Aboriginal children were unjustly taken from their homes and placed with white families or in Missions.

While various apologies have been issued for these atrocities by their respective governments, their efforts have not yet ceased. Still, Indigenous children in both North America and Australia are plucked from their families under the guise of ‘child protection’ by government agencies, which lack an understanding of the cultural and economic differences between our nations. Moreover, these agencies mistake systemic poverty for neglect, and remove children to be placed in homes deemed acceptable by colonial society. Though the films often reminded me of our inherited cultural traumas, they also reassure me that we are not alone on the path to recovery. They illustrate that Indigenous people everywhere are fighting the same battles, living the same realities, and are part of the same family. What I took away from these films is this: Colonial entities recognize that in family there is strength, which is why they tried so hard to disrupt ours. Imagine the empowering effects that would come from Indigenous people across the globe recognizing our greatest strength, each other!

Tectonic Shift

Thursday, October 18

Waylon Wilson

The Tectonic Shift screening addressed motifs such as Indigenous spiritualism, inter-generational sharing, death, relationships, survivance, and looking inward. The seven short films presented in this panel were a mix of fictional narrative and documentary, however most of these films were based on or at least inspired by true events.

The prominent shared theme of these narratives was the impactful practice of cultural and spiritual knowledge by the main characters. In Tama, a young Maori man practices and performs the Haka as a way to defend himself and his brother from an abusive relationship and alter the mind of their abuser, while in The Grave Digger of Kapu, an aging uncle teaches his nephew the spiritual significance and responsibility in digging graves for their community. In each of these spiritual short films, the characters exercise their new or existing spiritual knowledge as a way of externalizing their innate strength to make change within their relationships and community.  

In the discussion panel that followed, the artists and people involved in the production shared their interrelated experiences and inspirations behind making these films. Each held a direct reciprocal relationship to the communities portrayed on-screen and contextualized the importance of each film’s message to their community.

A Chance to Reflect: AbTeC Research Assistants Talk About Their Time in Hawaiʻi

This summer, from July 3 – August 3, a team of instructors made up of AbTeC staff delivered our sixth Skins workshop on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design. Now back at our lab and studio in Montreal, the they are putting the final touches on Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope, the game made by Ka Lei Milikaʻa–the He Au Hou 2 cohort–during our workshop at Hālau ‘Īnana in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

This year’s workshop was the result of our successful partnership with Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools. Kanaeokana is a network of Hawaiian organizations that works to strengthen a Native Hawaiian education system, ingrained in ʻōlelo Hawai‘i (the Hawaiian language) and ʻike Hawai‘i (Hawaiian worldviews). Kamehameha Schools directly educates over 6,900 K-12 Native Hawaiian students at multiple campuses and pre-schools throughout the state; they reach an additional 40,000 learners through other collaborations and programming.

The AbTeC staff are comprised mainly of Concordia students. We feel very lucky to have such talented and caring young people that we can bring with us into an experiential learning environment. We believe that while they are helping us deliver the workshop, they learn about teaching and cross-cultural communication, hone their own crafts and, we hope, make lifelong connections.

In this light, we asked the five Research Assistants who joined us to share their experiences and write about what they learned at He Au Hou 2 / Skins 6.0.

In gratitude,

[Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati, Co-Directors]
Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Graduate Research Assistant Maize Longboat (third from right) shares his take on the game. Also pictured, from left to right, are Pono (a participant’s son); Skins staff instructor Victor Ivanov; and A’ali’i Kelling, participant.

Maize Longboat

My name is Maize Longboat and I am Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River. I served as the Assistant Producer of Skins 6.0 in the periods leading up to and immediately following the workshop. Under Nancy’s expert direction, my responsibilities included organizing curriculum documents, managing the packing of vital equipment and materials, conducting communications and liaising with participants and staff.

My Master’s research takes a practice-based approach to the study of Indigenous video games. Because of this, Jason and Skawennati offered me the possibility to attend this year’s workshop as a Participant. Having the opportunity to not only support the organization of the workshop, but to also get hands-on experience was very important for me. I especially valued learning the details of what it takes to actually make a game from beginning to end. From story and art, prototyping to programming, making games requires a lot of varied expertise and interdisciplinary cooperation. Being a part of Skins was vital for my personal growth as a game developer and researcher and I’m so thankful to have been a part of the game’s creation process.

I learned that I really enjoy prototyping game mechanics that align with the broader themes of game narrative. I worked closely on our Loko I’a (fishing) mini-game alongside another participant, Charmaine, to develop game mechanics that reflected managing food supplies. We wanted to teach players how to take only what they need, in order to ensure a bountiful future for their descendants.

Lastly, I learned that my fellow IIF Research Assistant colleagues and workshop instructors are patient and thorough mentors who cared about everyone’s learning experience. I thank them deeply for their generosity, guidance, and friendship during and after the workshop.

My fellow participants brought their good minds and work ethic into the workshop space everyday. Their desire to create a game that everyone could be proud of is clearly visible in the final product; it was because of their dedication and abilities that this game is as awesome as it is. I’m also happy to say that I made great friends along the way and I’m looking forward to witnessing how everyone utilizes the skills learned in this workshop in the future.

Speaking of skills, I learned that programming isn’t as complex as I thought that it might be! Obviously, it takes a lot of time and practice, just like any other language, but I now feel prepared to work with game code in my future projects. What a pleasant surprise!

I hope to see the partnership between IIF and Kanaeokana flourish as they conduct more collaborative creative projects. The two games produced in the past two years are fantastic examples of what Indigenous peoples can do with new media technologies when encouraged to build their capacity as creators. Nia:wen for the opportunity to contribute as both an IIF staff member and workshop participant!

Undergraduate Research Assistant Ray Tqoqweg Caplin (right) worked closely local instructor with Vance Martin (centre). Concordia Professor Rilla Khaled (left) led the assessment team.

Raymond Tqogweg Caplin

My role in Skins 6.0 was the 2.5D Cinematics Tech Lead and Instructor, which included camera work and the creation of background assets in the game’s cinematics, as well as instructing participants in how to write, design, and construct the artwork. My other responsibilities included teaching Photoshop and After Effects to participants, as well as lending my artistic skills when necessary.

I taught alongside one of the local staff, Vance Martin, who has decades of experience in television and corporate film production. We made a great team; his experience in technical production, coupled with my experience in artistic vision and expression, complimented each other, providing a balanced learning experience for the participants.

I learned several things during the workshop. For instance, being comfortable with speaking in front of others: I’ve always had trouble accurately expressing myself in front of large groups. Two things that really helped me through the course of the workshop were being better prepared before speaking, and, with each day, becoming more familiar with the participants.

The participants who were a part of the Cinematics team were friendly, passionate, and came well equipped: all had a basic knowledge of the software we were to work with, so it was enjoyable to expand on that knowledge since they were so eager to learn and help with the project.

Thanks to Vance, I gained a lot of experience in After Effects and general rules of production workflow. He consistently showed me things I didn’t know about the programs or workflow planning. His many years of experience left a great impact on both the participants and I.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Bourgault gives a lesson. Pictured from left to right are Ikaika Bishop, Pippin Barr, TaraMarie Panoke, Maize Longboat, Leslie “Kehau” Agena, Charmaine Woodward, and Vance Martin.

Sam Bougault

Hello! My name is Sam and I was the Programming Lead for Skins 6.0. This role involved teaching lessons to familiarize the participants with Unity 3D, the game engine. I also taught some programming lessons to introduce the basics of code logic. I worked closely with Skins instructor Victor Ivanov and local instructor Corey Chang, which helped us give coherent lessons.

During these three weeks of fun and hard work, I realized how important it is to create a warm social context to foster learning. We were encouraged to share thoughts, food and free time with the participants, which really strengthened our ties to each other. This group cohesion was visible in the participants’ enthusiasm for the lessons. I also noticed that it is more productive to congratulate learners when they’ve achieved something they hadn’t tried before, rather than getting lost in the details of any given topic. In this way, participants build confidence and aim to tackle new challenges.

The participants of Skins 6.0 were striking in many ways: always motivated to learn new technical skills, emotionally intelligent, and culturally wise. They made me think a lot about my own culture, my relation to the land and my links to colonization. The whole experience deeply inspired others and myself. I believe that, in the end, inspiration is the most valuable thing we have to trigger changes.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Victor Ivanov and Graduate Research Assistant Maize Longboat strike a pose!

Victor Ivanov

My name is Victor Ivanov. For Skins 6.0, I took on the role of Level Design Lead, and I played active roles in the programming and audio units of the workshop.

I taught Level Design Theory, covering topics such as how narrative unfolds through environments, stylistic choices, and mood; through this, participants learned how to achieve these effects on a practical level. I also taught some Engine lessons with Sam Bourgault and Corey Chang, where we focused on familiarizing the participants with Unity, a game engine, and its various components. Finally, I taught the Audio and Atmosphere lessons alongside Kauwila Mahi and Matt Sproat, two very talented artists who, with their expansive approaches to making music, created a very knowledgeable and well-rounded team.

I firmly believe that teaching is one of the best ways to learn, and the workshop only confirmed this theory! On multiple occasions, a participant would notice something I had not, or have an eye for design and make beautiful levels, or come up with an interesting way to solve a programming problem.

I was impressed by how adept participants became after such a short amount of time; that meant that we all were learning. Not to mention, the sheer amount knowledge about the Hawaiian world each of them held was extremely insightful. What was most impressive was how respectful, understanding, and mature everyone was throughout the entirety of the workshop. It allowed a large group of people from different walks of life to come together and make something greater than the sum of its parts, and for that we should all be proud.

Undergraduate Research Assistant Kahentawaks Tiewishaw holds Bijou the Bunny, Honorary Production Assistant.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

My name is Kahentawaks Tiewishaw and I’m Mohawk from Kanehsatà:ke. My role in Skins 6.0 was the 3D Lead. Along with my local counterpart, John Mervin, I taught participants 3D modeling, UV mapping, texturing, rigging, and animation.

Working with the participants was an absolute dream because everyone was as kind and welcoming, as they were talented and perseverant. Learning these skills in a very short time, and then jumping right into production is no easy feat! I’m extremely impressed with the work they all did.

Even though I was an instructor in this workshop, I ended up learning a few things myself. It provided me the opportunity to improve on my technical abilities and teaching skills. When Skins 6.0 began, I naturally had a few doubts about how good of an instructor I would be. Being able to do something yourself and being able to teach others how to do it are two entirely separate things! However, I guess you could say this experience was a bit of a trial by fire, as it forced me to look at things as if I was approaching the software for the first time. This granted me a deeper understanding of my craft.

After all, I’ve heard it said that the best way to see if you really know something is to try to explain it to someone else!

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 2: The Old Guns

You’ve met the spring chickens, now face the old guns! You’ll recognize these seven faces from last year’s He Au Hou / Skins 5.0; they’re all returning as members of our Skins 6.0 team and we are ecstatic. See you soon!!! ♡

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Jason Edward Lewis

What is your role in Skins 6.0?


What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Storytelling. I love hearing the stories that the storytellers and participants bring into the room, the discussions about different variations in thestories and what they might mean, the thinking about what teachings the stories are trying to convey, and figuring out how to pull ingredients from them to work in the game.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I am looking forward to working with a new crew of participants. The Skins 5.0 participants were amazing, and this incoming class looks also amazing—but in different ways. I am looking forward to collaborating again with the Kamehameha Schools/Kanaeokana crew again, as we’re getting to know each other well and working more smoothly together because of it. I’m really looking forward to the game that they will make.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Explore the beaches with our boys. Give a couple of talks at local events. Catch up with the Skins 5.0 participants.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Feeling blessed!

Credit: Zoe Tennant. 2018.


What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am Co-Director of the Skins Workshops and am also one of the instructors. My area of expertise is transmediating Indigenous storytelling; basically, I translate oral tradition into movies and games.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the story emerges! We start the workshop with a community story-telling event, where invited storytellers share with us traditional and/or contemporary histories, legends and tales. Then we decide together on a story we want to tell through the game we’ll be making. Sometimes it is very challenging for the group to come to a consensus, but it always works out it the end.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

We have refined our curriculum further, so this year I expect to have a smoother time in three most challenging segments of the workshop: deciding on a story, technical instruction and even production. Of course, work always expands to fill the time you have, so we shall see!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Jason and I will be giving a talk at Art in Hawai‘i’s conference at Boxjelly on Digital Futures. I also hope to hike Diamond Head with Nancy and to worship the ocean as much as possible. Hawai‘i is a beautiful, powerful place!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

A very exciting element about this year’s workshop is that there will be “alumni” from last year who will now be instructors-in-training. The Skins workshops need more instructors so that they can be delivered in more places, more often!

Nancy-Elizabeth Townsend

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am proud to be reprising my role as Coordinator / Producer for Skins 6.0. I have been part of the Skins Workshop Series since its beginnings ten years back when I was a “mere” undergrad 3D-art instructor. It is an honor to be invited back and to witness firsthand how this unique workshop has grown and improved with every iteration.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

In what I assume is a state unique to Producers, I personally flourish within the excitement-laced-stress of the final 3-day crunch. Game features are cut, added, and re-arranged to ensure a playable, beautiful monster of a project that we all birthed together. It is invigorating to witness and coach such a “miracle of life”!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

At this point in my career, I have coordinated a dozen+ workshops and many game projects. If there is anything I have come to expect, it is not to be surprised by anything. Group projects are unavoidably messy and depend so strongly on individuals, team dynamics, the computer-crashing-Gods, even the weather can throw a development timeline off its rails. A successful workshop/production plan is a flexible one. I can only hope to expect that all participants glean some new cultural insights, technical skills and everyone leaves the workshop feeling empowered.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

As anyone can tell you, being away from home for a whole month can be difficult, especially as a parent. I am fortunate enough to have both my mother and 3-year-old daughter join me in Honolulu this year, mid-way through the workshop. I look forward to them experiencing the island in a context beyond mere tourism – meeting the brilliant team from Kanaeokana I have had the honour of working alongside and witnessing the importance and significance of such projects.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I apologize in advance for the too-many Final Fantasy references.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Owisokon Lahache

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I will be writing a daily blog highlighting the amazing events of the Skins Workshops as the days unfold as well as working alongside Noelani Arista as a cultural consultant / elder.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the participants arrive and the magic begins. My favourite part of the workshop is having the opportunity to share the experience writing about the development of their team, the experience, the passion for their learning all centred around Aloha culture is definitely a high point. It is truly  amazing to be a part of their camaraderie and honouring their ancestral knowledge with todays tools.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to see a whirlwind flurry of activity from both the presenters and the participants. I believe the mentors and participants will reach the tipping point that will enable them to continue to create unique cultural pieces long after the session ends.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

My husband will be joining me the first half of the workshop and I would like to spend some time with Tewenhni’tó:ken enjoying the land, ocean, and company of the Native Hawaiians. I would enjoy exploring, visiting the  Kanaka Maoli crafters and maybe do a little fishing too.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Pippin Barr

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m at Skins 6.0 as an instructor for game design and prototyping, so I’ll be giving a few sessions about how to do practical game design. I’m also around as a game development generalist – I’ve made a lot of small videogames over the years and have picked up a bunch of different skills, including experience working with Unity, the game engine we’ll be using, programming in C#, and more!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

It’s hard to pick out a single aspect of the workshop, because so much of it was so wonderful last year. Right at this moment I’d say it’s a tie between being immersed in Hawaiian culture, mo‘olelo, and aloha, and the production of the game itself in the final week, where we all get to work hard together and create something great!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

If it’s anything like last year’s I’ll be really happy. Mostly I’m expecting to meet a new group of people with new ideas and relationships to the culture and the technology. As for what comes out of that… we’ll find out!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

I’ll be going to Wailana Cofee House as soon as possible for the French toast with guava and the coconut syrup. Definitely want to get back to Bailey’s Antiques to check out the shirts there. Most of all I want to catch up with all the people from last year! I’ve missed seeing Nate, Rian, Vance, Maki‘ilei, Gonzo, Kēhau, and everyone else!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just can’t wait to be there!

Credit: Pippin Barr. 2018.

Rilla Khaled

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m the “assessment lead”. Basically, this means I am eyes and ears on how learning is taking place during the workshop.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Based on my experience last year, it was doing the wrap up interviews with the participants and seeing how far everyone had come individually in terms of confidence, knowledge, motivation, and having formed a community with each other. It was very moving.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

From the Hawai‘i side, they will be as awesome as ever. I like to think that the Canadian team is coming back smarter, wiser, and with some tweaks to make the experience flow even better.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Many noodles will be eaten. Much sitting in the sun shall be done.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2018.

Prem Sooriyakumar

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I was the documentarian (photo and video) on a daily basis I would document ever aspect of the workshop using photography and videography!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

My favourite part was getting to know the participants on their journey to making the first Hawaiian video game!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to continue to expand my knowledge about Hawai‘i and the wonderful community that surrounds the workshop!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Yes, besides the wonderful people.. it is a unique place for food, i will be on a quest to try as many different places as possible.  And I will be going to all the various botanical gardens in O‘ahu.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Privileged and humbled to be part of the workshop again!!

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 1: The Spring Chickens

With Skins 6.0 / He Au Hou 2 just around the corner, we wanted to introduce new members of our Skins family 🙂 These five, wily Research Assistants are coming to Hawaiʻi as instructors and as students. We’re so excited for you all to meet!

You can check out some of their work on our previous post, where they talk about “Call of Duty Free,” the Skins 6.0 test game!

Sam Bourgault

Hi, I am Sam. I will take care of the programming section of Skins 6.0 workshop, which includes lessons on Unity Game Engine and on coding using C# within that engine. I have taught Math and Physics classes before, but I always wanted to teach programming because you can do so much with it! I am looking forward to meeting the participants and learning about them and Hawaiian culture. I am also excited to spend more time with the great team AbTeC put together. Having visited Hawaiʻi for vacation two years ago, I will definitely go back to some unforgettable spots (the waves of Sandy Beach and Marukame Udon, a Japanese eatery on Kuhio avenue, are not to be missed!!) but I will also work on personal projects. I am sure the experience will be intense and challenging but also fun and mind-blowing. See you there soon (:

Ray Caplin

Greetings! My name is Ray Caplin, I am an independent animator and filmmaker, also an illustrator.  I am Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, located in Gaspésie and northern New Brunswick. My role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching the animated cinematic portions of the workshop, as well as anything having to do with 2D or 2.5D animation. Alongside that, I’ll support general illustration with Photoshop. I am excited to spark enthusiasm for the consumption and love for animation, to show how such a powerful storytelling tool can implemented into nearly any form of digital media. I hope to learn to become a better teacher, but alongside the students, learn about the many aspects of game development. Outside of the workshop, I look forward submerging myself in the rich culture, sample many foods and sights!

Victor Ivanov

Hello! My name’s Victor, and I’m a multidisciplinary designer and developer. My role during Skins 6.0 is focused around game design, level design, and audio production, with some involvement in the programming side of things.

This workshop has attracted me for a long time because games——especially games that tell stories–—have been at the forefront of my studies. I’m very excited about projects like this because they offer awesome opportunities for everyone, both participants and instructors, to learn and master technical skills.

And it goes without saying that the diverse set of perspectives we share will make for an incredibly enriching experience, both technically and culturally!

When it comes to matters outside the workshop, I’m super eager to try out the food. You haven’t really travelled if you haven’t tasted the food. Oh, and snorkelling! Not one after the other, though.

Maize Longboat

My name is Maize Longboat! I’m Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. I’m an Assistant Producer and also a participant in Skins 6.0. Over the course of the workshop, I’m excited to learn about how narratives can be translated into game mechanics and I hope to learn about how Indigenous peoples express their Indigeneity through the creation of a videogame. When not in the workshop, I’m going to learn how to surf! Finally, I’d like to give my thanks for having the opportunity to participate in this workshop; it will be a great way to develop my Master’s research project.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

Hi! I’m Kahentawaks, a Mohawk and member of Kanehsatà:ke, and my role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching participants all things to do with 3D! I’ve had the opportunity to be an instructor in one other Skins workshop prior to this, and I am eager to build upon that experience. I was also a participant in the very first videogame workshop, Skins 1.0. The thing I am most looking forward to is meeting people from a culture that seems both similar and strikingly different to that of my own. I grew up in a very Mohawk traditionalist context, so I have heard MANY retellings of our culture’s stories. That being said, I am excited to hear some new ones, and to discover what we might learn from one another. Additionally, I plan to spend as much time as humanly possible outdoors, while also trying some local foods.


Call of Duty Free: The Skins 6.0 Test Game!

Skins 6.0 – He Au Hou 2 is almost here! Our Skins Video Game Workshop is returning to Hawaiʻi through our continued collaboration with Kanaeokana and Kamehameha Schools. Anticipation and excitement abound!

One way we prepare for the workshop is through the creation of a test game. This allows our team of technical instructors to acclimatize to one another and develop a group bond and to provide participants with a working Unity template to use as a learning tool. This year, our four Technical Instructors–Undergraduate Research Assistants Sam Bourgault, Ray Caplin, Victor Ivanov and Kahentawaks Tiewishaw–created a charming, foxy test game about an IIF RA’s journey to catch their plane, entitled “Call of Duty Free”!

Below you will find the RAs describing their role in developing the test game. 

Victor Ivanov:

The test game was, as the name suggests, a way for us to get acquainted with both one another and the tools we’d use during the workshop. My fellow Instructors and I had two weeks, part-time, to make it. From concept to production, I’d say we did a great job, given the time frame!

The game is about a Research Assistant rushing to catch their plane at the airport. It’s obvious that this game externalized some of our anxieties, and we’ll hopefully master the suitcase-jumping techniques by July, just in (suit)case.

I designed elements of the levels such as progression, narrative and scenes, along with the sidescroller mechanics. I conceptualized and designed the environments, composition and lighting, and produced some of the accompanying audio. I helped out with some of the programming by making the User Interface, tweaking movement mechanics, and creating level objects, like conveyor belts, suitcases—all the dynamic elements of each level.

What was cool about this game was that it uses two very different playstyles: point-and-click and side-scroller. We wanted to see which style we use in the workshop, and ended up with a sort of experimental game that taught us a lot about each playstyle’s strengths and weaknesses. Combining different forms of gameplay has inspired me in my own work to apply a variety of gameplay styles, in one single game, for narrative purposes.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw:

I contributed to the design and 3D modelling of the main player character, as well as the non-player characters to the test game. I had never before created anything that was going to be implemented in a game, so for me this was really an opportunity to bring a few characters to life.


Ray Caplin: 

I contributed all the short 2D cinematics found between each level in the game. All of the animations were created in After Effects, using its basic puppet animation tools, which I feel added some charm to the game, and provided lively transitions between levels. Aside from this, I designed several characters, such as the Clerk, and illustrated the User Interface icons found in the the mini games.

Sam Bourgault:

I focused on creating the game managers—systems that coordinate the inner workings of the game—so that the scenes would follow each other in a smooth, persistent way. I also developed the code that controls player behaviors in both the side-scroller and the point-and-click mechanics. The most complex part was synchronizing the specific animations with the player’s corresponding motion state. I did some basic modelling in Unity for the point-and-click scenes, and programmed the behavior of the line when the player reached the security. Lastly, I helped with composition and level design.

We worked very well together, which allowed us to make the game in two weeks, part time. We agreed on a similar aesthetic and we trusted each other during the whole process! This is really promising for Hawaiʻi!

Finally, we invite you to watch through the playtest video at the top of the page. You can download “Call of Duty Free” for Mac and Windows!

Much love,

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures

Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: KC Adams, Dr. Stephen Borys, Siku Allooloo and Joar Nango!

KC Adams is a Winnipeg-based artist who graduated from Concordia University with a B.F.A in studio arts. She has had several solo exhibitions, group exhibitions and was included in the PHOTOQUAI: Biennale des images du monde in Paris, France. She has participated in residencies at the Banff Centre, the Confederation Art Centre in Charlottetown, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Parramatta Arts Gallery in Australia. Adams has received several grants and awards from Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. Her work is in many permanent collections Nationally and Internationally. Twenty pieces from the Cyborg Hybrid series are in the permanent collection of the National Art Gallery in Ottawa and from her installation BirchBarkLtd, four trees are in the collection of the Canadian Consulate of Australia, NSW. Recently, she was the set designer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation. She completed a public art sculpture for the United Way of Winnipeg called Community. She has an ongoing public art campaign called Perception that was on display all over Winnipeg, MB and Lethbridge, AB. She recently won the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Making A Mark Award and Aboriginal Circle of Educator’s Trailblazing Award.

Dr. Stephen Borys is the Director & CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), Canada’s oldest civic art gallery and one of the country’s largest. Under his leadership over the last nine years, the WAG has expanded and strengthened its role and profile in the community, as well as in the cultural and museum landscape in Canada and abroad. Dr. Borys has enabled significant growth in the Gallery’s overall operations, permanent collections, international exhibitions and partnership programs, capital and endowment development, and member and visitor engagement. At the core of his directorship is the goal of advancing a meaningful dialogue with the public, creating in both physical and virtual spaces, a welcoming forum where art and artmaking is at the forefront with audiences and stakeholders.

Siku Allooloo is an Inuit/Haitian Taino writer, activist, and community builder from Denendeh (Northwest Territories). She has a BA in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies from the University of Victoria, and a diverse background in Indigenous land-based education, youth work, solidarity building, and community-based research. Most recently she has been a program coordinator, facilitator and co-instructor at Dechinta Center for Research and Learning, working closely with elders and educators to deliver land-based skills and build strength in community. Her advocacy work through writing and speaking centers on issues of climate change, environmental protection, ending gender violence and decolonial politics. Siku is also an emerging creative nonfiction writer and poet, and she recently had a brief stint as a performance artist at Nuit Blanche in Toronto, 2017. Her work has been featured in The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, Briarpatch, The Guardian, and Truthout, among others.

Joar Nango is an architect with a degree from NTNU in Norway, and a practicing artist. He works with place-specific installations and self-made publications, which explore the boundary between architecture, design and visual art. Thematically speaking, his work relates to questions of indigenous identity, often through investigating the oppositions and contradictions in contemporary architecture. Recently, he has worked on the theme The Modern Sámi Space through, amongst other things, a self-published zine series entitled Sámi Huksendáidda: the Fanzine, design project Sámi Shelters and the mixtape/clothing project Land & Language. He is also a founding member of the architecture collective FFB, which works with temporary installations in public space. Currently, he lives and works in Tromsø, Norway. Nango’s work has also been exhibited internationally in Ukraine, The US, Canada Finland, China, Russia, Colombia and Bolivia amongst other places. In 2017 he exhibited in Documenta14, Kassel and Athens.

Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: Dr. Carla Taunton, Megan Tamati-Quennell, Dr. Serena Keshavjee, and Keith Munro!

Dr. Carla Taunton an Associate Professor in the Division of Art History and Critical Studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD) and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the department of Cultural Studies at Queen’s University as well as in the Graduate Studies Department at Dalhousie University. Taunton’s areas of expertise include Indigenous arts and methodologies, Indigenous history of performance, contemporary Canadian art, museum and curatorial studies, as well as theories of decolonization, anti-colonialism and settler responsibility. Through this work she investigates current approaches towards the writing of Indigenous-specific art histories, recent Indigenous and settler research/arts collaborations, and strategies of creative-based interventions that challenge colonial narratives, national/ist institutions and settler imagination. Her recent collaborative research projects include: The Kanata Indigenous Performance, New and Digital Media Art Project (2013-16); Arts East (2014-5); This is What I Wish You Knew: Urban Aboriginal Artists (2015-ongoing) and Theories and Methodologies for Indigenous Arts in North America (2014-ongoing).

Megan has specialist interests in the work of the post war (1945) first generation Māori artists, Mana wahine; Māori women artists of the 1970s and 1980s, the ‘Māori Internationals’; the artists who developed with the advent of biculturalism, a postmodern construct peculiar to New Zealand and global Indigenous art with particular focus on modern and contemporary Indigenous art in Australia, Canada and the United States. Iwi affiliation: Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu

Serena Keshavjee’s work focusses on the intersection of art and science in visual culture. She is especially interested in religiosity that presents itself as scientifically based, including Spiritualism, Theosophy and Transformism, popular in the early 20th century. In 2009 she edited a special issue of Canadian Art Review (RACAR) on Science, Symbolism and Fin-de-Siècle Visual Culture. She is the recipient of Social Sciences and Humanities Council Grant to study evolutionary theory and art. In 2015 Keshavee co edited, with Fae Brauer, Picturing Evolution and Extinction: Regeneration and Degeneration in Modern Visual Culture with Cambridge Scholars Press.

Keith Munro is Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Australia. He is a descendent of the Kamilaroi (Gomeroi/ Gamilaroi/Gamilaraay) people of north-western New South Wales and south-western Queensland, Australia. A selection of his curatorial projects include Ripple Effect: Boomalli Founding Members(2012), Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative 25th anniversary exhibition, and for the MCA Being Tiwi, (2015– 2017, co-curated with Senior Curator Natasha Bullock), the international touring Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a Distant Land(2008–2010), Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek AO (2010) and In the Balance: Art for a Changing World (2010).


Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: France Trépanier, Sébastien Aubin, Lenard Monkman and Kevin Settee!

France Trépanier is a visual artist, curator and researcher of Kanien’kéha:ka and French ancestry. Her practice is informed by strategies of collaboration. Her artistic and curatorial work has been presented in many venues in Canada and in Europe. France is co-leading Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires, a 3-year initiative which seeks to place Indigenous art practices at the centre of the Canadian art system. She is the Aboriginal Curator at Open Space Arts Society in Victoria BC, where she is co-curating, with Michelle Jacques and Doug Jarvis, the exhibition Deconstructing Comfort. France was the co-recipient of the 2012 Audain Aboriginal Curatorial Fellowship by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. France co-authored with Chris Creighton-Kelly Understanding Aboriginal Art in Canada Today: a Knowledge and Literature Review for the Canada Council for the Arts. Her essays and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines.

Sébastien Aubin is currently working as the Indigenous Designer in Residence, at the School of Art, at the University of Manitoba. Through this program, he is producing a body of creative work and research that extends our understanding of design and graphic form. He has worked for some of the most prestigious graphic design studios in Canada and maintains a career as a freelance graphic artist. Sébastien has designed publications for numerous artists, organizations, and art galleries in Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba, including the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Terrance Houle, KC Adams, the Carleton University Art Gallery, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. He is a founding members of the ITWÉ Collective, which is dedicated to researching, creating, producing, and educating audiences about Indigenous digital culture. He is also part of the AM Collective, which creates works that revolve around the imagination, sparking dialogue on subjects that relate to everyday life and emotions. Sébastien Aubin is a proud member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba.

Representatives of Red Rising Magazine. Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is currently employed as an Associate Producer for CBC Indigenous. Kevin Settee has facilitated community development programs at the University of Winnipeg and Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning centre.

Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: Dr. Duke Redbird, Mary Courchene, Niki Little and Candice Hopkins!

Duke Redbird is a visionary, intellectual, poet, spoken word performer, painter, broadcaster, filmmaker and orator, Redbird brought his breadth of culture knowledge, political activism and artistic practice and beyond, bringing an Indigenous approach to art education that was rooted in his pioneering work with Tom Peltier at the Manitou Arts Foundation in Northern Ontario in 1973.

He began his career as an actor and poet at the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and quickly became socially active on behalf of Aboriginal and Métis human rights. He served as Vice-President of the Native Council of Canada from 1974 to 1976, and President of the Ontario Métis and Non-status Indian Association from 1980 to 1983. In addition to his public service, Redbird works as a multifaceted artist, practising across a number of disciplines including literature, painting, theatre, cinema and most recently rap poetry. A well-known broadcaster and television personality, he is in demand as a public speaker in university, community college and elementary school settings.

Redbird received his Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from York University in 1978, and he is a PhD candidate in Sociology at York University. His Master’s thesis “We are Métis” was published in 1978 and continues to be a seminal text on the history and political aspirations of the Métis to this day. As a poet, essayist and screenwriter, Redbird has published and performed poetry readings, theatrical productions, video and film, both locally and internationally. His poem I am a Canadian was the inspiration for a multimedia musical production of his poetic work at a performance before Queen Elizabeth II. In 1985, Redbird represented Canada at the Valmiki World Poetry Festival in India, reading the opening address. He has written and directed many dramatic films and documentaries. In 1993, Redbird was presented the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago Film Festival for a drama he produced for TVOntario. For 15 years, from 1994 to 2009, he was the familiar face of Aboriginal Toronto as the Arts & Entertainment reporter for CityTV. In the summer of 2012, Redbird moved to his property on Bark Lake, near Madawaska, Ontario, to begin work on the development of a “food forest” and a Centre for Compassionate Living. His interests in sustainable, just and conscientious human evolution continue to inspire and guide students and faculty at Universities, public schools and beyond.

Mary Courchene is a residential school survivor. Born and raised on the Sagkeeng First Nation and moved away in 1971 attaining degrees in Arts and Education from the University of Brandon and the University of Manitoba. Mary’s career journey is extensive, including teaching in elementary and high schools, working as a school counselor and later as a school administrator. She was also an Assistant Superintendent within the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC). During her years as the first Principal of Children of The Earth High School (the first urban Aboriginal high school), she was active in serving the urban community on various boards. She also was a founding member of Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre (MFNERC).

In 2000 Mary Courchene accepted the position of Dean of Aboriginal Education at Red River College which she held until retirement. The Aboriginal Circle of Educators recently awarded her with the Innovator Trailblazer Educators Award. Mary received a YMCA/YWCA Woman of the Year award and was the Aboriginal Community Educator of the Year in 2001. As well, Mary has been nominated twice for the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. She is an honored grandmother of the Keep the Fires Burning, and was awarded with a sacred shawl with community recognition in 2008. Most recently, Mary received the Canadian Teachers’ Federation 2014 Outstanding Aboriginal Educator Award. For the past 8 years, Mary has held the position of Elder in Residence for the Seven Oaks School Division. Mary’s gift is her ability to share her vast experience of over 40 years in the field of public education and working with numerous First Nations communities. She is a visionary and amazing elder who inspires all people she crosses paths with.

Niki Little | Wabiska Maengun is a mother, softball coach, artist/observer, arts administrator and a founding member of The Ephemerals (random order). She is of Cree/English descent from Kistiganwacheeng, Garden Hill FN. Her interests lay in artistic and curatorial strategies that investigate cultural consumerism, gender politics, Indigeneity, cultural Diaspora with slightest hint of ambivalence. Little is a Committee member of the Public Arts Committee, Winnipeg Arts Council and a member of the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School Inc. Board of Directors. Currently, she is the Director of the National Indigenous Media Arts Alliance (national). From August 2015 to January 2016, Little was the Indigenous Curator in Residence, a partnership between by aceartinc and the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, launching the group exhibition enendaman | anminigook (intention | worth).

Candice is a curator, writer, and researcher who predominantly explores areas of history, art, and indigeneity, and their intersections. Hopkins is a curator for documenta 14 and has held curatorial positions at prestigious institutions including the Walter Phillips Gallery, Western Front Society, the National Gallery of Canada, and The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.