This Accident of Being Lost: The Video

 

The first music video I saw was in my parent’s family room, on Video Hits, in the middle of the winter where we only got channel 13 because the aerial was frozen in a single position. It was 1985 ish and the video was “Take On Me” by A-ha and it aired on a TV show called Video Hits  - a show in the late 1980s on CBC television featuring the music videos on the top hit songs. It was on every day at 5pm, right after school and it was mind blowing. Because live music never came to my rural south western Ontario town and this was the next best thing.

After I recorded my second album f(l)ight, released last September on RPM Records, I thought a lot about music videos and Video Hits. And how in 2017, it is still not rare to see white people wearing headdresses, but it is still relatively rare to see Indigenous peoples being ourselves in music videos. It is even more rare to see positive images of Indigenous queer and gender non-conforming folks in mainstream pop culture. I thought about the impact of this erasure in terms of the teenager Nishnaabeg kids living in my house.

There are a few things that are very important to me as a writer and as an artist. I want Indigenous audiences to be affirmed in my work. I want us to be able to recognize ourselves in my stories and songs.  I want to tell the truth in a grounded and an unapologetic way. I want the process of art making and the ethics of Nishnaabewin to be inseparable from the work.

I had a small grant from the Indigenous Arts program of the Ontario Arts Council, and I have a choice to make. I could make one video with a professional production company, or I could attempt to make a series of low/no budget videos with emerging Indigenous filmmakers. I fell in love with the later idea because I wanted to see how these brilliant Indigenous artists would re-interpret my work and add gorgeous visual layers to the soundscapes. To date, we’ve released “How To Steal A Canoe”  by Métis filmmaker Amanda Strong and “Under Your Always Light” by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Sami/Blackfoot). Both directors and videos are outstanding.

The third video is the title track from my newly released book of short stories and poetry, This Accident of Being Lost by APTN’s Dene A Journey producer and filmmaker Amos Scott (Dene) , and it is a precious video, very close to my heart.

The video was shot in Treaty 8 of Denendeh. More specifically, it was made on Chief Drygeese Territory in the Akaitcho region of Denendeh, the territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Over the past few years, I’ve had the honour of working with these communities at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning and the opportunity to figure out how to ethically and diplomatically work and live in  Dene territory according to Nishnaabewin. I’ve learned that from within side Nishnaabeg political practices, simple territorial acknowledgements fall short of my responsibilities to the Dene. Not only do I have a responsibility to acknowledge and affirm their governance over their land and align my actions with their ways of being, I have a responsibility to centre their people and their voices whenever I can. I have a responsibility to give more than I take.

To this end, I invited Dene filmmaker and producer of APTN’s Dene A Journey to Dechinta to work with myself and the cohort of students to make the video for “This Accident of Being Lost”. Working with the Spring 2015 cohort of Dechinta students, over a week, we made a music video.

It begin on a Monday morning at Blachford Lake Lodge, the home of Dechinta program in Chief Drygreese territory. I recited the poem for the students and then wrote each line on a flip chart. I explained my intent. I was nervous. More than anything, I want my work to resonate with Indigenous peoples, and this was a test. Amos asked the students to assign an emotion to each line of the poem, and as we went around the circle, I wrote words like “love” and “proud” on the chart.

Amos then asked the students to assign a visual image to each emotion, and then as a group we took these images and story boarded them. We talked about literal images and conceptual images. They told us they wanted Indigenous youth to watch the video and feel proud. They told us they wanted to show Dene men expressing a variety of emotions, not just anger and stoic. They told us they wanted to show their lives here as they are, not with some division between traditional and contemporary.  They asked our Elder Ethel Lamothe if we could film part of a Feed the First Ceremony. She agreed. We were all excited by an appearance of our Moose Hide Tanning Instructor, artist and Hollywood actress, Melaw Nakehk’o and her beautiful son Bez in the video.

I’m happy to share this wonderful video with you today.

The music was written by Tara Williamson, and it was performed by Tara, myself and my sister Ansley Simpson.  The track was produced by Jonas Bonnetta with James Bunton. For all of you in the Toronto region, please come to the live concert in celebration of This Accident of Being Lost and Ansley’s debut album, Breakwall.

 

Revolutions Per Minute Presents :: Live in Concert
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – ‘This Accident of Being Lost’ (Book Launch)
Ansley Simpson – ‘Breakwall’ (Album Release)
Wednesday, April 26th | Drake Underground | Toronto, ON
DOORS: 7pm / SHOW: 8 PM

TICKETS: $12 |