Arts and the Re-appropriation of Culture in Native Societies in Quebec, Canada: The Production of “N’teishkan”, a Documentary Film about Traditional Knowledge

By Geraldine Laurendeau.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is based on experiences followed in a Innu (Montagnais) First Nations community, in Quebec province, Canada. In 2008, a research was done in Mashteuiatsh (Pointe-Bleue) to understand the transmission of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants. It showed that transmission, to be efficient, must involve experience and action, but also engage relationships between elders and younger people in the apprenticeship of their culture. Those practices, traditionally shared through family linkages, are strongly related to territorial autonomy and access to land. In contemporary days, the sedentary way of life has had an impact on the way culture is passed on to the following generations. Traditionally shared through orality, indigenous culture, artistry and knowledge are now being reinvented and transmitted through contemporary materials, techniques and communication tools. The interaction between generations are still important for cultural transmission but most important are the personal experiences through which young people can learn about traditions, while finding their own ways of expressing it. To illustrate the role of art in the Innu society, we will take the example of a short documentary film project which was produced during winter 2010 and 2011 within the Nitassinan (meaning «our territory») of the Mashteuiatsh community, in Lake St. John, Quebec province. Through their participation in this film, the young natives are developing artistic skills while they also acquire knowledge on traditional hunting techniques and way of life. Here, art as process plays a role in the re-appropriation and expression of culture; film, as the result, is a medium, a tool which can facilitate further transmission.

Keywords: Documentary Film, First Nations, Innus (Montagnais), Mashteuiatsh, Lake St. John, Quebec, Transmission of Traditional Knowledge, Cultural Re-appropriation, Artistic Expression

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.247-264. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.748MB).

Geraldine Laurendeau

Film Co-director, Project Manager and MA Student, Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh (Community Museum), Association du Parc Sacré-Kanatukuliuetsh Uapikun, History Department, Université Laval, Musée amérindien de Mashteuiatsh, Mashteuiatsh, Quebec, Canada

Geraldine has two college diplomas, the first in Professional Photography (1998), the second in Arts and Literature (2000). She’s been working in cinema, arts and design fields since then and has experimented multiple medias such as photography, graphic design, painting, sculpture, performance, sound and video. After spending 5 months in China for an Artist Residency in Shanghai (2003-2004), she went back to school in 2005 at Laval University, in Quebec city to study Social Sciences. In 2007, she gets a Multidisciplinary Bachelor’s Degree (Ethnology, Anthropology and Fine Arts), then pursues her studies at the Master level in Ethnology with Dr. Philippe Dubé, Ethnologist and Director of the Research Center in Museology (LAMIC), and graduated in 2011 at the same university. Since 2008, she works on different research projects with the Innu First Nation of Mashteuiatsh doing the inventory of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants, organizing exhibitions and directing documentary film projects to encourage the transmission of traditional knowledge within the community.


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