How not to represent Indigenous Peoples: Iwinfografix 101

This is a video with data and images about indigenous Canadians.

It uses data from a Stats Canada survey and outlines problems Aboriginal Canadians have compared with non indigenous Canadians.

It is a well made video: the production values are high.  It presents indigenous totems and objects alongside facts and figures. The background music is hauntingly beautiful.

You might assume that this is a great way to represent the issues of Aboriginal peoples?

Well, not necessarily.

I would like to present another perspective. Do you see:

… how hopeless life appears to be for Canadian Indians?

…any hope within the narrative?

….the underlying narrative as containing anything redemptive or solution focused?

Let me be clear here. I am not an Aboriginal Canadian. I am Indigenous Aotearoa.  The video presents facts. It highlights problems, and these are very serious.

But here is the issue for me, as an indigenous person: where is there any evidence of the people going forward or doing things positive? Is there any data that points to things that are working?

Now perhaps the purpose of the video is to present how hopeless the situation is for many. But I think it is necessary to say that in Aotearoa NZ, we have moved away from simple representations like this: where “life is fulll of despair, and the indigenous people are totally screwed!”

If you want the literature on this, read anything from my relative, Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith and her work on Decolonising Methodologies. (Check a review on her classic work here

The point is that in this video, even though I suspect the author did not intend it, has created a key implicit and subliminal message that is very disempowering. It is as if indigenous people need anyone outside of our own community, from government to churches, to save them.

In Aotearoa NZ, we don’t really like do these messages anymore. Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Mason Durie and other researchers have created more proactive, indigenous led frameworks of development that mean we need to be careful about the messages we send through research – whether intended or not.

Because ultimately, the messages in this video are colonial. They make indigenous people seem lesser, unable, and incapable of developing solutions.

There is nothing farther from the truth.

Moreover, if you want to see a piece of work that is more positive and well rounded, even though we have similar issues here with out young people: click on this

Nga mihi



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