Todd Forsbloom’s latest television series hits close to home for the Métis director and producer.
“I have two boys – one’s 11 and one’s 17,” he said when reached at his Vancouver Island home. “There’s so many distractions for both of them. How can I compete with screens and games and Netflix? As a father, I’m always trying to get them outside.”
Lately, he’s found a pastime that helps them do so: hunting.
“They love it and they’re excited to do it. It’s so important because I think our young people today are bombarded with things that I didn’t have to deal with. I also think that, as our elders get older, we’re losing that knowledge and we need to pass that on and keep it going.”
Indigenous approaches to hunting are the subjects of his latest series on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Yukon Harvest, which premiered on May 8 and will air weekly on the network until the end of July, follows several individuals as they reconnect with their roots, traditions and inheritance in the Yukon and across Canada.
“The series came from the desire to share,” said Mr. Forsbloom, “and to pass on tradition to people who maybe don’t have a chance to partake.”
He and his team began developing the project in 2012 and knew early on that they wanted to focus on the Yukon.
“There’s something about the Yukon that is so mesmerizing,” said Mr. Forsbloom. “There’s nowhere like it on Earth. And the rich history of the First Nations peoples of the Yukon – it’s incredible.”
Filmed mostly around the Mayo region of the Yukon Territories, but also in parts of Vancouver Island, around Kamloops and northern British Columbia, and in Saskatchewan, the series traces the journeys of several younger generations of Indigenous people as they learn about traditional hunting methods.
Dallas Harris is one of these people. Her father, Don Harris, was a well-known Métis-Cree hunting guide in the Mayo region before he died in 2017. He would spend long summers in the area, guiding groups hunting for moose, caribou and bears and sharing the meat they harvested with the local First Nations communities.
“My dad had told me about this place for so many years,” said Ms. Harris. “He was always in love with that country.”
The first two episodes of Yukon Harvest follow Ms. Harris and her stepmother, Annette, as they meet up in the area her father used to hunt and Ms. Harris embarks on a hunting trip in memory of him. Joined by a seasoned guide, she is able to confront her buried feelings of grief, anger and loss through the experience, and to finally come to terms with her father’s death.
Ms. Harris, who learned to hunt at a young age, sees the act of hunting as a healing and spiritual endeavour – one that involves a deeper connection to land and self, and that can help in the processing of emotions.
“My dad taught me how to harvest animals,” she said. “Respecting the animal means that the animal is literally sacrificing itself for you. For First Nations people, it’s important for us to give thanks for that animal giving its life to feed a community. That act is probably one of the most emotional, overwhelming feelings you can have.”
It’s also a way to connect with a culture that she would like to be closer to, and to pass knowledge on to future generations.
“My dad wanted to learn more about his culture. He wasn’t raised First Nations at all,” said Ms. Harris. “I didn’t know much about my culture growing up, but now I’m learning. I want to teach my children too, because it’s also part of their heritage.”
Mr. Forsbloom hopes that the series can offer viewers – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – motivation to reconnect with the outdoors and to learn more about traditional relationships with their natural surroundings, just as he and his family have.
“Not everyone is going to get to fly up to the Yukon to hunt,” he said. “But can we go fishing in a lake nearby? Or it might mean going mushroom picking in your local area and doing something that your ancestors did. It’s going to look a little different for everyone.”
He also hopes the audience will come away with a better understanding of the ritual and beauty involved in Indigenous approaches to hunting.
“When it came to harvesting the animal, the amount of respect we captured was incredible. I wish everyone could see hunters in this light,” said Mr. Forsbloom.
“I’m hoping it might show that hunters are respectful people and they’re doing it for the right reasons. Nothing goes to waste. Hunting has gotten a bit of a bad rap, but I’m hoping this helps to balance the scales,” he said.
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