January 09, 2023: A new dawn is upon us – Two of the most compelling voices in Indigenous storytelling join forces for Indigenous freedom through radical resistance.

Happy 2023! Welcome back to the mentoring circle – today we witness the work of two of the most compelling voices in Indigenous storytelling, as they join forces for Indigenous freedom through radical resistance. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, artist, musician, poet and writer, who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of our generation. In collaboration with Michif (Metis) interdisciplinary artist and Indigenous filmmaker Amanda Strong, they have created astonishing pieces of art through animated music videos and short films that focus on Indigenous resurgence. One of their latest collaborations is the following music video, a stop-motion animation of the song “Break Up” from Simpson’s latest album Theory of Ice. 

Break Up” welcomes us into a world likely not encountered or immediately recognized. Fragmented imaginaries where water moves between forms and cycles. Another collaboration between Simpson and Strong that portrays the importance of water is “How to Steal A Canoe“, a music video from her album f(l)ight. A haunting story-song that effortlessly interweaves Simpson’s complex poetics and multi-layered stories of the land, spirit, and body with lush acoustic and electronic arrangements, claiming a unique space in contemporary Indigenous music. Simpson performs a spoken-word story about a young Nishnaabeg woman and an elder Nishnaabeg man rescuing a canoe from a museum and returning it to the lake it was meant to be in/with. On a deeper level, we witness the act of stealing back the precious parts that always belonged and were part of Indigenous peoples.

This Accident of Being Lost” is another song from Simpson’s album f(l)light, (music written and performed by Tara Williamson), this music video clip is directed by Dene filmmaker Amos Scott. The music video was made along with the students in the Spring 2015 cohort at the Dechinta Centre for Research & Learning where Simpson teaches. It was shot in Treaty 8 of Denendeh on Chief Drygeese Territory in the Akaitcho region, the territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The video is a beautiful example of reciprocal recognition, which Simpson in her book As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance describes as “the act of making it a practice to see another’s light and to reflect that light back to them, forms the basis of positive identity, self-worth, and dignity in the other being”.

Released in 2018, Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes) is a Canadian animated short film, directed by Michif (Metis) interdisciplinary artist Amanda Strong based on the writings of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. In this mesmerizing stop-motion short film, Biidaaban, a young Indigenous genderfluid person, and Sabe, a Sasquatch shape-shifter, set out to harvest sap from sugar maples, despite living in a contemporary urban environment. Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have harvested sap from trees to produce syrup, a practice that continues today. In this short stop-motion animated film, Biidaaban is on a mission to revive ceremonial sap harvesting and must overcome their fear of getting caught. This film asks us to reflect on who owns the trees and who has the right to use them.

Michif (Metis) interdisciplinary artist Amanda Strong focuses on filmmaking, stop-motion animations and media art in relation to the reclamation of Indigenous histories, lineage, language and culture. Strong is the Owner/Director/Producer of Spotted Fawn Productions and her films have screened across the globe. In the following arrestingly beautiful short, she combines shadow puppetry and digital stop-motion to tell the story of an Indigenous youth named Thunder who is navigating their way through a colonial flood guided by Spider Woman. On their journey, they meet Ghost Judge who frantically writes history to fill the entire world from the side of oppression and displacement. This film asks: whose truth is real? What tactics do we use to decolonize, fight back and move forward from colonial truths?

In the following animated documentary, Amanda Strong shares a personal story, the oral and written history of her family reveals this story. We witness the impact and legacy of the railways, the slaughter of the buffalo and colonial land policies. The film follows the journey of an Indigenous photographer as she travels through time. She witnesses moments in her family’s history and strengthens her connection to her Metis, Cree and Anishnaabe ancestors. Four Faces of the Moon contains no English language, relying on sound, image and Indigenous voice to tell the story. This multi-layered approach to storytelling may leave you with more questions than answers: it is an invitation to look into your own understanding of history, legacy and the importance of knowing who you are and where you’re from.