“Gifts from the Elders” is one outcome of a collaborative research project between the Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation, Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways, Turtle Island Productions and researchers from The University of Western Ontario and Lakehead University.
Our community-based project was initiated in 2008. Initial discussions with Anishinabe Elders along the north shore of Lake Superior revealed considerable concern about industrial development in their traditional territories. Elders claimed that the impacts of this development was leading to changes in the health and well-being of their communities, and reducing their ability to share and practice their Indigenous Knowledge with younger generations.
These early discussions led to development of a large study designed to connect Anishinabe youth and Elders in the preservation of Indigenous knowledge about health and environment, with emphasis placed on find useful ways to use Indigenous knowledge as a basis for protecting their environments and improving community health.
Our project provides an interdisciplinary approach that puts First Nation communities in the driver seat on research about local environment and health concerns, particularly those related to industrial development in their traditional territories. We hope our project may inspire other Indigenous communities to engage in participatory research project such as this to build local capacity, preserve Indigenous Knowledge, and voice their concerns about the environmental and health changes they see in their communities.
Early on we envisioned producing a short video as part of the overall research project. The goal of the video was to employ two Aboriginal film students under the direction of award-winning Ojibway filmmaker James M. Fortier, to document the process of the Aboriginal youth from the two First Nation communities as they spend a summer conducting the research through interviews with their participating Elders.
After the interviews were filmed it became apparent that the Elder’s stories and knowledge warranted a more ambitious production, so additional filming occurred over the summer of 2011 by James Fortier, who spent a year editing the final one hour documentary.