CBC’s 2012 miniseries 8th Fire is an edgy, provocative look at Indigenous/settler relations in Canada. Its subtitle: “Aboriginal Peoples, Canada & the Way Forward” establishes the show’s purpose — to better understand each other and work together to improve relations in the future.
What sets 8th Fire apart is the positive and proactive approach it takes to addressing the issues. Host Wab Kinew is up front with the audience from the start. He says it’s not about making non-Indigenous people feel guilty; it’s about both sides learning about each other and taking ownership of the future together.
8th Fire does a great job of weaving history and present time together. Too often, Indigenous history is contained to the pre-Confederation era, with little consideration of what happened after, or how history influences the present. 8th Fire portrays Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations as a continuous path, which is informed by the past, but whose course can easily be changed by working together in the present.
Overall, 8th Fire suggests that relations are improving and that there is great hope for future generations. Our students are receiving better education about Indigienous history and the tools they need to be better citizens to each other. Project of Heart, which was created by award-winning teacher Sylvia Smith and featured in the second episode, is a great example of this.
However, it’s not enough to educate only our children. Adults, many of whom have had little exposure to Indigenous history, also need to be educated. Our parents, employers, and leaders also need to become better informed and understanding of Indigenous issues, so they can set good examples for our children and break the cycle we’ve formed.
8th Fire features a few programs aimed at doing just this. In Episode 2, the audience meets John Lagimodiere, owner of ACS, Aboriginal Consulting Services. He delivers a program to a mix of non-Indigenous participants, to educate them on Indigenous history and issues. We watched as he dealt with stereotypes and misconceptions (“I do pay taxes,” Wab Kinew assured us) and started to change the attitudes of even the gruffest and most reluctant of the participants.
There are still a lot of problems we need to fix, but community and educational programs like John Lagimodiere’s will be crucial to rebuilding relationships with Indigenous people.
Visit the website to find even more stories, videos, interactive features and lots of conversation (teachers: there is a lot of great material for the classroom)!