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Kudos to Parks for denying film permit

Dear editor,

“You don’t always have to make great representations of Native people. We’re not asking for that. We’re not asking to be nobles, or righteous, or good all the time. We’re asking to be human.”  – Reel Injun, 2009 Canadian documentary.

I wanted to write a piece in favour of Parks Canada’s decision that disallows the film Hard Powder from being shot in Banff, and the Columbia Icefield. While it is a difficult judgement without seeing the film or script in its entirety, I personally believe Parks Canada was right to sense a ‘red flag’ when the portrayal of an Indigenous gang was suggested.  Since early explorers arrived in North America, preconceived ideas of Indigenous identity have been depicted only in terms of their deficiencies defined by European ideas, concepts, and criteria. Terms such as “brutish, savage, and heathen,” come to mind. This colonial narrative of an inferior people has not vanished, but has been carried into Hollywood film portrayals of Indigenous peoples for the last 100 years. For instance, the ever popular, “Cowboy vs. Indian” story line is problematic for a number of reasons. Not only does it generalize Indigenous peoples into one monolithic category, but depicts them as a vanishing and oppressed group of people. These films were created by non-Indigenous voices, celebrating settler history as victorious, while portraying little truth to the Indigenous perspective. I point this out, because when we are considering individuals who have gone through residential schools, or members of the 60’s scoop, or any Indigenous person who has been forcefully disconnected from their culture and are now faced with the challenge of reclaiming that knowledge, these films might be the only representation they had of themselves. Imagine yearning for knowledge and cultural representation of your history as a peoples, who you are, where you came from, and you are faced instead with images of racist stereotypes which celebrate the oppression of your ancestors. For too long non-Indigenous voices have controlled the narrative towards Indigenous peoples. In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, it is time we change that narrative, and I commend Parks for doing so with the rejection of this film. While we cannot stop the film from being made, we can choose to send the message that we are committed to honouring our shared history with Indigenous peoples truthfully, committed to reconciliation, and that we refuse to seek profit from exploitation of Indigenous identity that risks contradicting these commitments.

Hailey Smith
Former Jasper resident

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