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Ktunaxa leaders take role in international documentary series

Series seeks to uncover lost knowledge and ancient Indigenous teachings
Chief Gibby Jacob of Squamish First Nation, left and chief Robert Joseph of Gwawaenuk First Nation on set for the filming of Jacob’s latest documentary series Back to the Fire (Photo courtesy of Back to the Fire crew)

Two Ktunaxa First Nation leaders have a role in an exciting new Canadian documentary series.

“Back to the Fire: In Search of Lost Values that Could Change Our World,” is a six-part documentary series that will take viewers on a international journey to uncover lost knowledge and ancient teachings from indigenous leaders.

Squamish chief Gibby Jacob and Canadian filmmaker Andy Keen are heading up the project alongside co-producer Pieter Romer. The pilot episode is currently in post-production and the documentary team is searching for fundraising. The timeline for release is still unknown.

Indigenous leaders from Ktunaxa, Gwawaenuk and Squamish First Nations in B.C will share their wisdom in season one, but later installments will venture further afield to communities in other areas of Canada and in the U.S, Central and South America, New Zealand and Australia.

Former Ktunaxa Nation chief Sophie Pierre and Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese will make an appearance in the second episode.

Both women are widely recognized for their political and social work. Pierre was a leading force behind the transformation of St. Eugene Mission from a residential school to a resort and cultural centre. Teneese worked tirelessly to protect the Jumbo Valley, or Qat’muk as it’s known in Ktunaxa, from development and negotiated its transition to an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA).

In the series, chief Jacob travels between communities to meet with leaders who share stories about their language, culture and personal philosophy.

Teneese took Jacob to Qat’muk to show him an area that has long been considered sacred to Ktunaxa. She talks to him about the importance of place.

“People, they need to know why certain things are and how they’re connected,” she said, “…It is important to ensure that we don’t develop every square inch of land that is available to us. We need to make sure that future generations have access to places that are of spiritual importance, but just generally, for non-Ktunaxa people, to be able to experience a beautiful space close to as original as possible.”

READ MORE: School District 5, Ktunaxa First Nation renew Indigenous Education Enhancement Agreement

Jacob, who has spent nearly 40 years in politics, has networked extensively within indigenous leaders, and one of the things he noticed was that youth were gradually losing knowledge of their culture. This troubled him and other leaders.

“[Residential schools] They basically broke the circle on our traditional teachings that were passed on from one generation to the next. That was the real beginning of the loss of those teachings. I’m trying to close up the broken circle, and get my friends, who are among the leaders I know, and get them to share,”he said.

He wanted to create a resource that not only eduated the general public, but also helped young indigenous people learn traditional values. The series is reminiscent of late nights spent around the campfire listening to elders share stories and wisdom.

“My late father would sit me around the fire and tell me all kinds of things that he thought I should know. This is what he went through with his grandfather who raised him.”

Jacob and his team are in the process of fundraising for the project. Teck Resources recently announced a $150,000 contribution.

“This is an important project in support of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” Teck’s CEO Jonathan Price remarked in a press release. “This series will be a powerful tool for teaching generations about Indigenous history and storytelling in Canada and Teck is pleased to support it.”

Teneese said the project would help keep the traditional practice of knowledge-sharing alive.

“Prior to contact, the way of preserving knowledge and information was oral and there were people that were tasked with that job, of making sure it was passed on,” she said.

“Being able to use technology that has been developed over time to be able to do what has been done for generations upon generations, is good. It’s also a way to insure that it’s going to live on because a lot of people do use technology in so many different way. It’s their sole form of learning and communications.”

“Having this available is going to be invaluable. It does provide an opportunity for those that are participating to be able to speak their truth and have those truths preserved and passed on.”


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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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