A new television series focused on the efforts of young Dene people in the Northwest Territories to relearn parts of their language and culture is set to premiere on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in January.
The six-part series, Dene A Journey, was produced by Yellowknife-based NCS Productions, the television arm of the Native Communications Society, and debuts on Jan. 9 at 7:00 p.m. EST.
Directed by Amos Scott, a Tlicho Dene and former video journalist for APTN, the documentary series takes a look into the lives of young individuals in Denendeh on their journeys toward cultural revitalization.
“The idea itself was borne out of conversations I’ve had with peers growing up, about wanting to know more of our language, wanting to know more of our culture,” Scott told The Journal. “And so that desire is what the television show is about: wanting to know more of one’s culture.”
The show profiles well-known musician Leela Gilday as she travels to Deline to make dry fish and tan moosehide. In another episode, Gwich’in sisters Nina and Tania Larsson return to their culture after spending much of their lives in Europe.
Another follows Mason Mantla, a filmmaker and musician from Behchoko, as he lives in a bush tent at -40C. And keeping with the theme of return, Joseph Buffalo-MacDonald comes back to the North after years of skateboarding in Edmonton to find a sense of peace in the bush.
Even Scott makes himself and videographer Riel Stevenson-Burke a focus of one of the episodes, which explores their “unexpected transformation behind the cameras” as they discover themselves as Northern, indigenous storytellers.
Common themes, such as the lack of resources for pursuing traditional knowledge and the self-confidence gained from taking actions to empower oneself, culturally, run throughout the series.
Scott said characters for the show were chosen based on their common desire to reconnect with their Dene roots.
“It just comes down to someone who’s in a place in their life that has that desire to learn more about who they are through their culture,” he said.
“I’m hoping that this TV series speaks to a desire that’s there for a lot of people, and that’s partly why we went with it: because it touches on something that’s real for a lot of people, and that’s wanting to know more about our past, more about our culture. Because of the residential school experience, a lot of our families never shared languages with us or some of the cultural elements of our life. We never had the opportunity to learn from elders. That’s why that focus is there.”
Besides marking a defining point in Scott’s career as an aspiring documentary filmmaker, he said he is really proud of his team for making the project a reality.
“The people I work with are really excited about having this finally go to TV and be broadcasted on television,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work and we’re really proud to be at this point. I hope people like it.”