Seeing Food Forests Through Indigenous Eyes: Interview with Videographer Eric Anaquod

|  Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Seeing Food Forests Through Indigenous Eyes: Interview with Videographer Eric Anaquod

headshotNothing about us, without us.” To authentically walk the path of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, CFTC believes it is imperative to offer a platform for Indigenous creators to tell their own stories in their own voices.

So when the opportunity to make a video documenting the growth and importance of food forests arose in late 2023, we knew just what we had to do. We reached out to Eric Anaquod, a Regina-based filmmaker and member of the Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation, situated on Treaty 4 territory, for help.

I think one of the things that made me most excited when CFTC reached out to me was to work in three different Indigenous First Nations north of Saskatoon. As an Indigenous person myself, going in there to document and film these food forests was really exciting,” Eric said.


Connection to storytelling and culture

GROW: An Indigenous Food Sovereignty Story was filmed on location in Ahtahkakoop, Beardy’s & Okemasis’, and Muskeg Lake Cree Nations in August, 2023.

Eric’s cultural connection and shared language were indispensable to telling these communities’ stories sensitively and respectfully.

sunflowers

A stunning screenshot from GROW: An Indigenous Food Sovereignty Story of bees on sunflowers in the garden

I started learning Cree just over a year ago, so [I’m interested in] anything that involves language in these First Nations,” Eric said. He explains that much spoken Cree these days is contemporary, especially in southern Saskatchewan, but that as you move north, the language changes. He is “trying to learn the old Cree that's not spoken very much anymore,” which he heard spoken in the communities he visited.

His Cree language skills built immediate rapport, especially among Elders like Tim Peekeekoot of Ahtahkakoop and Audrey Eyahpaise of Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation. Eric said that “the language [can be one of the] biggest barriers before you do anything else. Having the language … made it fairly simple for me, as an Indigenous videographer, to come into these communities.”

Some of the most moving moments in the video are hearing Audrey and Tim, speaking in Cree, explain the connection between their people and the land. Eric used these moments as a poignant way to frame the video.


Special bond with community

Following the lead of Indigenous people is one of CFTC’s core principles of engagement at both a strategic level and also in terms of the day-to-day logistics of the work. Eric was accompanied to the communities by members of CFTC’s Indigenous Partnerships & Programs team, including director Sydney Richards, a member of Peepeekisis Cree Nation who, like Eric, was born and raised in Saskatchewan.

Eric explains that his sensitivity to protocol, taught to him by his late grandmother, was essential. “When it came down to the offering, I always respect my Elders. That's what I was taught since as long as I can remember. I have some special tobacco and I offered that to everyone we interviewed. I was acknowledging them and thanking them for having us into their First Nations to do the work that we were doing.

Eric’s Indigenous background also helps him anticipate whatever cultural traditions, ceremonies, or celebrations might occur. “You don't know, when you go to these communities, if you're going to be attending a feast, or a sweat, or a round dance,” he says. “You’ve got to be prepared and have an extra pair of clothes or extra food and some empty containers for food.” These, along with tobacco for offerings, he carried in his bundle alongside his cameras and sound equipment. And it was a good thing he did, since at Ahtahkakoop there was a feast underway. “They were cooking up a big moose for us. We had tea, and we ate,” he said.

a woman talking with a tipi behind her

A still from GROW: An Indigenous Food Sovereignty Story of Shalean Morin from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation

During his time in Ahtahkakoop, he formed a special bond with Elder and Knowledge-keeper Tim Peekeekoot. “I have learned so much language from him because he speaks a lot of that old Cree,” Eric shared. Tim invited Eric and his mother, who accompanied him on the trip, to return and spend some time in Ahtahkakoop.

Not only did Eric form new friendships but he also got some new business out of the visits. “Muskeg Lake is working on land mapping so they needed people to get aerial landscapes. One of the Elders saw me flying my drone … so he wanted me to come back and do some video work for them.” He’s had further referrals to other Indigenous communities beyond the three he visited who are using video to document their cultural, language and territorial customs that are at risk of being lost.


An immense talent in the field

Aside from Eric’s nuanced understanding of the Cree language, and his respectful and thorough knowledge of Indigenous traditions and protocols, there is another important element that made all the difference in the success of the final video: Eric’s immense talent.

Jennifer Watson, a communications consultant who worked with Eric to produce the video on behalf of CFTC, said that Eric is one of the most talented videographers she’s met. “He has a unique style and vision. He was able to see things and make choices that a non-Indigenous videographer simply wouldn’t be able to do. When you watch GROW, you hear first-hand from the people who are bringing these food forests to life in their communities. You are seeing their importance and what they mean through Indigenous eyes. It has a depth and perspective that is very powerful.

Visit Anaquod Videography to learn more about Eric and his work.