2012 Review: Original People Original Television: The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

 The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

Original People Original Television: The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
Jennifer David
Published By: Debwe Communications Inc.
Pages: 214

Review by Christine McFarlane

“Original People: Original Television,” is a behind-the-scenes look at Aboriginal Canadian broadcasting, beginning with Robert Flaherty’s documentary Nanook of the North in 1922 to the creation and launch of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in 1999.

The story of how the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network was created is not only intriguing, but it describes the positive leap for Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Before the creation of Aboriginal/native broadcasting, Aboriginal people were often depicted as the Other, “seen as exotic creatures to be observed, and even admired by the audience and narrator,” writes author Jennifer David.

Within mainstream media, how Aboriginal people were portrayed was problematic because this included “decades of Western movies replete with bloodthirsty savages, shifty half-breeds, stoic warriors and exotic Indian Princesses in buckskin.” David curiously asks “Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants of the land we now call Canada. So how did Aboriginal Canadians become the outsiders?

The creation of APTN started with two movements in the 1960s and early 1970s, which were backed by initiatives like the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change program, and the Anik E-1 satellite experiments in northern Canada. Political and policy changes also brought about the creation of northern Aboriginal broadcasters and Television Northern Canada.

With the onset of television becoming Canada’s primary source of information and entertainment, these movements brought together Aboriginal filmmakers and producers in southern Canada and attracted the attention and support of various political bodies, such as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). This changed the face of media in Canada.

“Original People, Original Television” relays the story of decades of hard work and the dreams of people who wanted their own television network. APTN allowed First Nations people to have their own voice and to tell their own stories, and Jennifer David does a great job of letting reading audiences know about the creation of Canada’s first Indigenous television network.

Original People, Original Television: The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is a must read for those interested in media, the arts and culture, contemporary Aboriginal life, grass roots and national politics, and those seeking confirmation that a dream can come true.