In 2001, I travelled to visit a friend on the fly in the community of Old Crow, a Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation nestled along the Porcupine River in the most north western community in the Yukon. Visiting my friends' fish camp I walked along the river shores and stumbled upon a strange piece of wood that I felt compelled to pick up. This wood was unlike anything I’d ever encountered and I soon realized it was a tusk! I brought it back to the fish camp and my friends agreed -it was likely a mammoth. I asked them if I could take it home with me back to Toronto and they said yes. They said as long as I didn’t sell it, but if it was meaningful to me, I should have it. About a week after I arrived back my friend mailed it out to me and it sat, all wrapped up on top of my kitchen cupboards. Over the years I asked myself: why did this come to me?
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower futurism series written in 1993 is set in the mid 2020’s in a dystopian world that’s been ruined by climate change. Reading the texts in the actual years 2020, and 2021 many unsettling and foreboding parallels align with our present. In Octavia’s fictional setting the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” is being held up by corporate elites and right wing Christian extremists in their pursuit for political power embedded in past, corupt systems, while America is destabilized by extreme weather, social inequity, and racial discrimination. The result is a toxic mixture of poverty, drug addiction, crumbling infrastructure, dislocation, and a mass migration of people hoping to move north in order to survive. Lauren Oya Olamina, an African American teenager with the gift (or curse) of “hyper empathy” envisions a new consciousness that is not embedded in past or present systems but that encompasses survival by letting go of failed ideologies. Olamina accepts change as the only constant truth she knows and she builds her own ideology that can empower autonomous community building, eventually looking to the stars to escape and rebuild on other planets.
As an Anishinabekwe, mother, media creator and community leader from Wasauksing First Nation, along the shores of Lake Huron, I have long been on a journey to unearth and learn from Indigenous wisdoms in my journey to decolonize and heal from the consciousness that led to the atrocities of colonization. In the mainstream white supremist world-view, Indigenous people and knowledges are often considered “sub-human”, “barbaric”, “primitive”- all lies which justified the horrific residential school system and the systematic genocide of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island and beyond. For what purpose?: Greed and power, ultimately derived through the control and extraction of resources (the land).
Themes of survival and sacred uprising locate my film as I have long thought about how me, my family, and community will survive as we enter an unsettling era of climate crises. The idea of literally traveling in a spaceship to colonize other planets holds no hope. Rather, intergalactic travel must begin within ourselves. Through re-engaging our ceremonies, lodges, offerings, and sacred sites there is a return to the consciousness, knowledges, teachings, and to the messengers that can lend to our survival. The mammoth bones are unearthing themselves revealing the coming change and its potential consequences.
The Process: The film was shot using a 16 mm Bolex film camera. Found footage and sounds from youtube iceberg and crow google searches. Phytogram images were derived on celluloid film through hand processing of mammoth bone fragments, flowers picked at Toronto City Hall (catmint), Wasauksing First Nation (cedar, field mustard) and a ‘house plant’ imported from Madagascar, (kalanchoe- one of the first plants to be sent to space to the Soviet Salut 1 space station). Processing techniques were learned from Phil Hoffman and the Film Farm.