Indigenous creators are ready for their close-up with technology

Canada wants to be a world leader in technology, and big things have been happening on that front in recent years. Indigenous nations also want to be global technology leaders — and, in fact, we always have been.

Indigenous technology is based on sustainability, universal access and education: from canoes to pyramids, from roads and bridges to cities and trade networks, from teepees that have withstood blizzards to long, plank-free houses that have weathered stormy ocean storms. We managed millions of square miles of land and water, providing the good life for millions of people while protecting waterways and forests and non-human beings.

And this technology has always been fused with art. I am Cree and Métis, not from the West Coast, but I remain in awe of the Haida’s traditional carved halibut hooks, which simultaneously embody science, art, respect for halibut and the sustainability of its stocks.

Among the many misconceptions about indigenous peoples is that Western technology is beyond our capabilities. This is despite the fact that we have shared our extensive knowledge and technology with the newcomers, who have used it to survive and then claim Turtle Island’s resources. We knew where the gold and tar was and our canoes were made by the Hudson Bay Co.

Indigenous peoples have always been quick to adopt new technology, but we’ve always had bigger dreams than mere sufficiency or profit. We were driven to promote and enrich our own cultures and communities, especially storytelling traditions.

When Indigenous people first gained access to cameras, lighting, sound and film equipment, they immediately adapted these tools to create films that reflected our stories. We were sharing them with a world that so often misinterprets Indigenous culture, and we had the power to push the boundaries of form to tell these stories with greater intensity and emotion.

My career as an Indigenous filmmaker, artist and activist has allowed me to share my passion for telling stories through technology that advances almost daily. I was privileged to work with and mentor talented and passionate artists, and we told the truth about Indigenous history, reclaiming our culture from the myths that colonial oppressors tried to bury it under.

The struggle to rebuild our culture continues for new generations of creators. These creators have exceptional skills and innovative techniques and have attracted Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences who thirst for our perspectives.

Many are self-educated in the emerging technology. But if we want to create more opportunities, we need to increase access. As the founder and creative director of the IM4 Lab in collaboration with Emily Carr University of Art and Design, I can say that the vision is to give filmmakers access to the latest virtual and augmented reality technology training to indigenize the film industry.

An exciting new component will be added to IM4 Lab soon. The Virtual Production Innovation Studio, a partnership with the Digital Supercluster’s Talent and Capacity Program, will allow creators to expand their skills to create digital sets and effects that could rival any Hollywood blockbuster.

Opinion: Natives have always been quick to adopt new technology, but we’ve always had bigger dreams than mere sufficiency or profit, writes Loretta Todd. #ArtificialIntelligence #Indigenous #WomenInTech

Virtual production, which uses virtual and augmented reality technologies, has quickly become an essential tool in modern filmmaking. Its indigenous users may take inspiration from Taika Waititi, a Māori director and producer who has used these technologies to create titles such as Thor: Love and Thunder and Our flag means death.

The virtual studio will begin training its first wave of 30 indigenous creators in the coming weeks. The free program includes extensive training in a virtual production studio and will be overseen by a matriarchal governing body including Tracey Kim Bonneau, Cease Wyss and Doreen Manuel.

These Indigenous women have extensive careers in media and community activism and are dedicated to ensuring community access to these storytelling tools.

With access, we can recreate history and create immersive environments for our stories. People who take this training can walk on big production sets with confidence and build good careers.

It is important that educators working with Indigenous creators have a sensitivity and understanding of who we are and why these tools are important to us. This model offers skill development in a context controlled by Indigenous traditions and culture. I hope it can be used to connect indigenous artists with advanced technological skills in other fields.

It is about making traditional values ​​and culture the foundation for developing advanced skills in our community. Technology and skills are not only career builders, but community builders. This is what makes our approach unique, but it can also be applied beyond the creative fields, to healthcare, education, environmental science and beyond.

I hope that programs like the Virtual Production Innovation Studio can also be models of reconciliation. We have a great opportunity to train a new generation of Indigenous creators to work with the wider industry and turn a camera on our rich history, our modern lives and the future of seven generations. In this way, we can influence Canada’s arts sectors to be more inclusive and thoughtful.

Loretta Todd is an Indigenous filmmaker and founder and creative director of IM4 Lab.

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