Love it or hate it, the controversial show First Contact debuted its second season this week on APTN.
Over the course of a month six Canadians with racist views and prejudices travelled to several Indigenous communities to learn more about Canada’s role in cultural genocide.
Their trip included visits to Kanesatake, Que., to learn more about the Oka Siege from Ellen Gabriel and Elder John Cree; to Natuashish in Labrador to spend time with local Innu people; to Thunder Bay to learn about exposed racist attitudes toward Indigenous people; as well as to Saskatoon to speak with Colten Boushie’s family.
For Stephanie Pituley things started to change after she visited an old residential school in southern Ontario.
“Just the idea of children being taken away from their parents gives me the heebie jeebies. I can’t imagine somebody coming in and taking my child from me for no reason,” the mother of five told APTN.
In a twist, Pituley herself is Metis.
She obtained Metis citizenship with the Manitoba Metis Federation three months before filming.
It’s something she struggled with while filming the show.
“Halfway through our journey this is when I started to feel I shouldn’t even recognize myself as that because there are so many people that do recognize as Metis and they know their heritage, they know their culture, they know the history behind it. I know nothing,” said Pituley.
After the first season debuted last fall social media lit up with praises for the program, which takes its premise from the Australian show of the same name, but also many criticisms, especially from Indigenous people.
The main concern being it shouldn’t fall on Indigenous people’s shoulders to educate others.
Vanessa Loewen, a producer with Animiki See Digital Production, said this is the position they wanted to take while creating a Canadian version.
“We decided that our efforts toward reconciliation and trying to build a better relationship was to take this approach,” she said.
During a reunion panel on Thursday one participant argued it is up to Indigenous people to educate others after saying he was at the blunt end of ‘hostile’ attacks on social media.
“All I would like is Indigenous people if you’re online and you see someone legitimately wanting to learn about the culture and asking questions and you see them getting attacked please help,” said Brennen Kovic.
“Indigenous people want allies. People that want to learn want allies in you as well.”
Stephanie MacLaurin was a community host to three of the participants while they visited Fort William First Nation in Ontario.
She took the opportunity to engage in peaceful dialogue with the participants, including Pituley, but says Indigenous people should not apologize for their anger.
“I think that Indigenous righteous rage is important…we have more than enough right to be angry over what’s happened,” said MacLaurin.
MacLaurin doesn’t regret the decision to participate in the show and even says if the opportunity came up again she would do it, but she believes non-Indigenous people have to step up and educate themselves as well.
“I want to turn one of the misconceptions about Indigenous people around and one of them is we’re lazy. I think as non-Indigenous people they’ve been extremely lazy in learning their history and the truth around Canadian society,” said MacLaurin.
First Contact is available to stream online at aptn.ca.