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‘Recording our History’

Video transcript

Hello, my name is Justin Langan. I’m from Swan River, Manitoba. I’m creating an Elder interview series called Recording Our History. I go to communities within the Parkland region and interview Elders. Essentially, it’s just me talking to the Elder and getting to know them.

We speak about various subjects like climate change, culture, history, language and understanding their own personal experience with that. My grandmother passed away when I was, like, nine, and so I never really had that learning opportunity. So I felt like this would be a great opportunity to not just learn from Elders personally, but also, you know, record it and share it with other people. And, you know, future generations, too. This project is sort of a time capsule, and their spirit and their knowledge is never really lost. Sitting down, listening to an Elder speak and tell their story, there’s nothing better.

One woman named Grace from Camperville, she had experience with residential school and she would tell me stories about how her and her friend would climb up in a tree and just hide from the nuns. I would never have been able to speak with a residential school survivor this personally.

Elizabeth from Duck Bay, she would speak to me about her experience with climate change and how she would go to a place called Kettle Hills, and she would go there growing up and pick berries and pick some medicine. And then now seeing that the berries have diminished in population, how there’s invasive species, how the medicines she wanted to pick isn’t there anymore. It’s simple things like that that really help you understand the scope of climate change and how it has been affecting Indigenous people.

I think once people hear it, hear what they have to say, they’ll be like, ‘Whoa, they’ve been understanding the effects of climate change far longer than the progressive societies have been.’

I have such a deep respect for Elders. They understand what’s going on. We just need to listen. I really think this project can help bridge the gap between Elders and youth when it comes to technology. You know, Elders, they want to share their stories and youth want to connect with Elders, but they don’t know how because there’s that gap.

I just want youth to look at this and come away with a deeper respect for Elders and a deeper knowledge of their culture, their history, their language, and how they can use this knowledge to impact not just their lives, but other lives and the community.

And I feel like we all have lost something without, you know, the wise words of an Indigenous Elder. This is just one way to help, you know, share some knowledge with everyone.

Justin Langan feels the pull of advocacy and storytelling.

The UM political studies student, who has a diploma in film studies, travelled Manitoba’s Parkland region talking to Elders for an interview series exploring issues important to them, including climate change.

“I always asked the same questions: What have you noticed? What does it mean to you?” He’d then ask young people for their perspective, hoping the recordings will bridge the gap that keeps Elders and youth from connecting with one another.

Langan, who is Métis and from Swan River, interviewed more than a dozen Elders about their personal experiences. It’s an opportunity he says he missed out on within his own family, having lost his grandmother when he was nine years old.

He questions why rural, Indigenous communities are so often ignored in the climate change conversation, given their profound connection with the land they call home. 

“They notice the small differences, whether they’re hunting, trapping, commercial fishing. They see the water rising from different levels, species leaving and coming in. They see when berries get bigger, when they’re smaller,” says Langan. “Of course Indigenous people will have a better understanding of how the Earth is changing. They’ve been warning about it but no one was listening.”

One Elder in Duck Bay told Langan about the depletion of not only the medicinal plants growing in the region but the bonding that happens when they’re picked together. 

“These communities have been dying because they’re losing these communal experiences. They’re losing the kinship with one another,” says Langan.  

His series is set to broadcast in 2022.

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