IIF Summer Recap

She:kon! Fall has arrived here in Montreal and the view of Mount Royal’s trees from the lab is bright and colorful.

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures had a busy summer and so we will share what we were up to in the warm months.

On June 1, 2016 we welcomed another addition to the Illustrating the Future Imaginary series. Mi’kmaq artist Ray Caplin created the piece Hunter of Altered Game.

Hunter of Altered Game

Postcommodity returned to Montreal July 22 to 29 for their second residency. They worked intensely with the IIF team and were able to complete a working version of their virtual reality experience Global Center for Self-Realization and Liberation.

The 2nd Annual IIF Partnership Meeting took place August 4, 2016 in the University of British Columbia-Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The 2nd Symposium on the Future Imaginary was held the following day on August 5, 2016 also at UBCO. The Symposium was an interdisciplinary conversation about where Indigenous communities see ourselves in seven, twelve, even twenty generations, and about how to develop strategies to get there. The full-day event was held during the O k’inadas // complicated reconciliations​ artists residency. It featured preeminent artists, academics, activists and technologists envisioning their own particular Indigenous Future Imaginary.

There were also demonstrations of the Virtual Reality projects from our residencies. Scott Benesiinaabandan showed his project Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky and Cristóbal Martínez represented Postcommodity as he showed their project Global Center for Self-Realization and Liberation.

Skawennati and research assistants Erica Perreault and Darian Jacobs went Vancouver to run a Machinima Workshop in August with the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Museum of Anthropology’s Native Youth Program in Vancouver.

Six urban Aboriginal youth formed teams to create two machinimas, each recounting a legend that the participants were given permission to tell. The workshop was held at Emily Carr University and ran over 4 days. Pre-production skills, production and editing skills were taught in this time. By the final day both teams had finished filming and one had even done an initial edit of their machinima!

Click here to watch The Madam

Click here to watch Tho’wxeya

A new addition to the IIF website is an interactive partnership timeline which was made over the summer. It’s a helpful tool for getting an overview of everything that IIF has been up to since the start of February 2015 and even a little into the future.

That was our summer in a nutshell!












Vancouver Machinima Workshop

She:kon! It has been a warm week here in Montreal as the leaves change for fall.

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures, in partnership with the Contemporary Art Gallery, held a Skins Machinima Workshop for the 2016 Native Youth Program in August. Skawennati and Research Assistants Erica Perreault and Darian Jacobs traveled to Vancouver to teach and aide six Native youth to create their own machinima depicting stories from their cultures.

The Native Youth Program (NYP) is a work-study program run in the summer to provide cultural knowledge and work experience for six urban Aboriginal youth (ages 15-16) enrolled in secondary school.

Vancouver machinima workshop group 2016

Everyone met for the first time at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology on Monday August 8,2016. After a shared lunch the youth gave a tour of the museum, showing art pieces that they had chosen and held meaning to each of them. The tour offered a good look into the interests and personalities of each person.

Skawennati introduced IIF and Skins and explained the main goals for the week. The day ended with some homework as the youth were asked to bring in stories to get started with on day 1 of the workshop.

The rest of the week was a flurry of activity at Emily Carr University as the machinima were created. The youth decided to split into two teams to work, each focusing on a traditional story that had been brought in. One, called Th’owxeya, is a story about a monster who steals children; the other, called The Madam (pronounced “moddem”), told how a boy named Kumalagalis gained super powers. Often, a highlight of the learning phase is when people are shown how to customize their avatars and this workshop was no exception as beauties and monsters alike were created.


Participants were taught the basics of using Second Life, then made storyboards, jumped into pre-production, production and finally one team even made it to editing their machinima. the Native Youth Program inserted a pleasant addition to our usual daily agenda with a morning circle before the start of each day. The purpose of the circle was to share how the previous evening went, how each person was feeling and their hopes and expectations for the day.

The youth showed their enthusiasm and dedication as they chose to stay past the end time to try and wrap filming and editing for their machinima. The Kumalagalis machinima was completed and shown and the Th’owxeya team finished their filming.

It was a non-stop week and everyone’s hard work paid off. The finished machinima will be posted soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.
















“Disrupting Settlement, Sex, and Nature,” Kim Tallbear for the Future Imaginary Lecture Series


Kim Tallbear’s rigorous and meticulous approach defies research trends and epistemological categorization. She may not identify with the language of the Indigenous future, but her work greatly lends to the analysis of one. Tallbear’s experience in the field of genomics has been the foundation of her feminist and Indigenous interventions into the sciences in order to resist objectifying colonial logics within its disciplines. Tallbear calls for an integration of Indigenous peoples within the sciences, and science within Indigenous communities, to produce self-determined subjects and collaborators, rather than objects. Tallbear often speaks to histories of colonial exploitation within the sciences, the treatment of Indigenous bodies as biological resources, raw materials, and locations of experiment. Science has been, and continues to be, central to the colonial project. As such, Indigenous researchers and communities must endeavour to influence science. Hearing Tallbear speak to these harrowing realities is almost always a reminder that history repeats itself; that empowering Indigenous communities within the sciences is essential to our resistance as peoples.  

While not explicitly within the field of genetic science, some of her most engaging theory has been done in this space, wherein she imagines ways of defining cellular life, animacy, and relationality outside the constructs of Western thought. Kim Tallbear’s is a theory that has thought through queer inhumanisms, imaging ourselves away from the bounds of human and non-human binaries, pointing to relationship-based futures. She has questioned the limits of settler love, asserting, “I live and work in pursuit of new ways of loving, lusting, and losing amidst the ruins and survivals together of my ancestors’ ways of relating (The Critical Polyamorist),” borrowing from Eben S. Kirksey to describe our relationships, our bodies, and our resurgence as sites of biocultural hope. Tallbear’s work articulates both new and remembered ways of relating meant to emancipate us into this future imaginary of care, a future that centres Indigenous ways of relating, kinship, and love ways as embodied peoplehood. Kim Tallbear’s upcoming lecture for the Future Imaginary Lecture Series at Concordia University will speak to the current academic buzzword “anthropocene,” an era marked by the human consumption of human and non-human kin. Tallbear will apply these new ways of relating she speaks so eloquently of throughout her work to this space, warning us that the alternative is the demise of all our relations. 


Text by Lindsay Nixon

New Addition to IIF’s Illustration Series

She:kon! It’s a bright and sunny day here in Montreal.

There is a new addition to IIF’s Illustrating the Future Imaginary series. IIF commissions artists to illustrate themselves or their indigenous communities seven, ten or twenty generations from now – thinking within science fiction territory.

The piece was created by Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. She expresses herself through writing, design, and art in games, comics, and animation. She is Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish, living near the Great Lakes.


Artwork Statement: “Returning to Ourselves” reflects our cyborg selves of the future in a spacetime when we activate interstellar travel by recognizing the depth of teachings from the past. Blood memory echoes as thought initiates form and the triangulation of breath ignites the connections of planetary traplines.

Hot Docs Festival Fun

She:kon! It’s finally warming up here in Montreal this week.

Recently, Ana Serrano of the CFC (Canadian Film Centre) reached out to Skawennati to see if she would be interested in having AbTeC Island shown at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival. As an IIF and CFC co-production, tours would be given using Virtual Reality headsets and mics so that people could walk through sets and chat with tour guides in real time; a totally new way to experience the world!

Skawennati responded with “Let’s try it!”. She felt the idea dovetailed nicely with our Activating AbTeC Island initiative. From 12-5pm April 29 to May 8, we gave guided tours of sets from TimeTraveller™. The first day was special, as voice actors Thomasina Phillips and Nicholas Fragnito wore the avatars of the two protagonists, Karahkwenhawi and Hunter, and led tours in character. Skawennati also led a tour.

Saturday and onward the tours were given by research assistants Erica Perreault and Darian Jacobs.

A lot of questions came up through the use of the experimental process, touching on issues like motion sickness, sound and graphics hurdles. Happily, quick thinking and problem-solving skills were abundant on both sides and solutions were found. One solution led to focusing the tours in the Art Museum, where people were invited to question the art, Second Life and TimeTraveller™.

Most visitors shared that they had never used VR before and were amazed to be walking through the world. Others were fascinated to be chatting with their tour guide in real time, despite being miles away from each other. There was even a few people who didn’t quite believe that they were really talking to a human. A few TimeTraveller™ fans even made an appearance!

It was certainly a new and fun experience for many!

Imagining Indians at Dechinta


Skawennati and I working with the Dechinta students on a character design excercise, where we ask them to imagine a 7th-generation descendant…what she looks like, how he dresses, what she does, where he goes, etc.

Skawennati and I (and Zachariah and Elijah and godmother Kathleen) have now been up in the bush for four amazing days, learning how Dechinta conducts its land-based learning programs. More later…



IIF Symposium Toronto Week 4


Today we are posting the last of the videos from the 1st Symposium!

The Symposium on the Future Imaginary was the first in a series of gatherings to talk about how Indigenous people might envision our future. Organized by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and hosted by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, it was held on the afternoon of September 15th, 2015, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

We have been publishing the videos on a weekly basis and the final group are now available to watch!

Here are the videos for week four:

Jolene Rickard Considering Traditional Practices of ‘Seeing’ as Future

Concluding Group Commentary

IIF Symposium Toronto Week 3

She:kon, We are continuing to post the videos from the 1st Symposium!

The Symposium on the Future Imaginary was the first in a series of gatherings to talk about how Indigenous people might envision our future. Organized by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and hosted by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, it was held on the afternoon of September 15th, 2015, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

We have been publishing the videos on a weekly basis and the final batch will come out next week!

Here are the videos for week three:

Julie Nagam explaining the concept of using Technology as Decolonial Tools

Elizabeth LaPensée presenting Games as a Pathway to Indigenous Futurisms

IIF Symposium Toronto: Week 2

She:kon, We are continuing to post the videos from the 1st Symposium!

The Symposium on the Future Imaginary was the first in a series of gatherings to talk about how Indigenous people might envision our future. Organized by the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and hosted by the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, it was held on the afternoon of September 15th, 2015, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

We will be publishing a set of videos each week for the next month. Here are the videos for week two:

Stephen Foster presenting the Indigenous New Media Archive

Jason Ryle explaining the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival’s goals partnering with IIF

Imagining the future: an op-ed in La Presse

She:kon! Today, as always, we are looking to the future. This time in French language paper La Presse!

Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati co-wrote an op-ed that was published on Sunday April 3rd, 2016. It is a fair and well thought out piece that considers how lack of representation can cause harm and that everyone needs to have a true understanding of Indigenous history as we move to the future. It’s fine to dream of a white Christmas but a White future is a bit too narrow. The Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) aims to enable Indigenous creatives to push against forces, literal or metaphysical, so that they can show that the future will be more than what has been seen so far.

Take a look at the full piece, which is currently French-only, to get the in-depth story! We’ll post the English version when (if) it gets published.

LA PRESSE: L’avenir autochtone, c’est aussi le vôtre