Sunday, March 28, 2010

Design thinking and Storytelling

A year in the making of a documentary film certainly has been an experience that I’m unable to sum up here in a short blog post. The culmination of many people giving of there time and support to bring the story to life.

The documentary chronicles an extraordinary profile of leaders who share their perspectives through rich storytelling. They share their memories and legends set against the remarkable backdrop of James Bay Northern Quebec.

An account of "David and Goliath" proportions the James Bay Northern Quebec Cree in the early 1970’s have been inhabitants from time immemorial with a growing population of roughly 5000. They were established over a region the size comparable to England in remote communities.  The communities they lived in had no connecting roads. Intercommunity communications was limited. There territories include a magnificent watershed of lakes, tributaries and rivers streaming through dense boreal forest, wetlands and bogs. In fact the Cree to this day trap beaver using techniques that decades earlier were effective when they played a central role alongside the Europeans in the fur trade boom. The first Hudson Bay Post was established at Rupert House today known as Waskaganish.

The Cree used the Rupert River as an inland thruway for traversing their Canoe caravans west toward the Bay to bring their cache of pelts to the Europeans who in turn loaded the fur onto ships. Ships once loaded crossed the Atlantic Ocean back to Europe. The fur was crafted into hats and other fashion. At the time the Cree were part of a multi-national enterprise long before the notion of globalization was in vogue.

Robert Bourassa was the premier at the time in the 1970’s his administration began a massive hydro electric project in the far north squat in the centre of the James Bay Cree territories. These two forces the James Bay Northern Quebec Cree and Quebec Hydro Electric Utilities set the stage for what is one of the most legendary dynamics in Aboriginal history. The story treatment has profiled the central players sharing their perspective whom at that time asserted their rights, protected their traditional activities including hunting, fishing and trapping and preserved their territories against unbridled land development.

Storytelling is a persuasive technique that is central to understanding. We have a rich and diverse Northern Region in Canada that includes deep cultural heritage. The stories from the north unfortunately are being lost. Lack of investment by stakeholders combined with an aging population of Elders within northern Communities puts the concept of “preservation” on a narrow pending timeframe. 
I was in conversation with a leading expert in pedagogy from Canada’s west coast who has worked extensively with the Haida. She shared with me that just three First Nations languages remain vital and in use here in Canada many First Nations languages are now lost as generations pass away.

Of course the stories and knowledge disappear along with the languages this is a tragedy for generations of future Canadians specifically Aboriginal youth.

Design thinking applied to ethnology sustaining oral history and education is now at the forefront for me having gained an understanding of the James Bay Cree's leadership and innovation. 

In Canada we must act together to preserve our countries Aboriginal Elder’s original and authentic stories, that for centuries have been foundational to their peoples survival, education, values, conservation and beliefs.

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