Friday, November 4, 2011

Muskrat Magazine's Rebeka Tabodondung: Looking at Media from a First Nations Perspective

My most recent piece for Yonge Street Media, posted this week, looks at Rebeka Tabodondung, editor and curator of Muskrat Magazine, a new online Toronto magazine that focuses on First Nations perspectives.

Here's an excerpt from the middle of the article:

"I got the sense in early discussions that Muskrat wasn't going to focus on how 'deficient' First Nations people are— their disasters and problems—but rather focus on contributions they can make to broader society," says Deborah McGregor, interim director for Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto. McGregor contributed an essay to the debut issue tracing the Ojibwa re-creation myth in which the muskrat—among the smallest and most humble of animals—is the only one brave enough to dive into deep waters after a massive flood and bring up soil for a new land to be built.

The muskrat's parable of great ends from inauspicious beginnings is a powerful one for Tabodondung, who was kicked out of high school before graduating. At 19, while on an exchange program for indigenous youth from Guatemala and Canada, she had a revelation which changed the direction of her life.

"That was the first time in my life I'd ever heard of an indigenous perspective of history," she says, recalling the youth program's visits with Aboriginal groups in B.C. "I realized the Aboriginal experience of colonization in Canada is not a perspective that is included within the education system, within media and general Canadian consciousness. I began to understand the power of media and the importance of indigenous people to control their own stories, to tell their stories the way it happened to them."

Researching this piece was a good reminder for me on the power of media and of telling one's own story. It also introduced me to a compelling performance piece by artist Keesic Douglas. Last summer, Douglas canoed from Rama First Nation near Orillia to The Bay on Queen Street West, where he tried to trade his great-great-grandfather's Hudson Bay Blanket for beaver pelts. Here's a film on that performance from Muskrat Magazine's Youtube Channel:

For more information, visit the Muskrat site or read on at Yonge Street Media.

(Image of Rebeka by Tanja-Tiziana for Yonge Street Media)

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