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Indigenous Leadership Initiative & Royal Canadian Geographical Society Forge Innovative Partnership to Produce Series about Indigenous Guardians

Press Release

Ottawa – November 16, 2021: The Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) have formed a ground-breaking partnership to produce a documentary series about Indigenous Guardians caring for lands and waters across the country.

This collaboration grows out of shared values and concerns. In the age of climate change and loss of biodiversity, both ILI and RCGS want to highlight Indigenous leadership in sustaining animals and plants, clean air and water, and healthy people and communities.

ILI and RCGS are committed to producing the project in a way that embodies responsibility and reciprocity. Not only will they implement best practices in Indigenous filmmaking protocols, but they will also trailblaze new ways of working across institutions and new kinds of collaborations with Indigenous Nations involved in the production.

“We are excited about this unique partnership,” said Valérie Courtois, Director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative. “We can draw on each other’s strengths to shine a spotlight on the great work of Guardians. And we will do it in a good way: The project will be led by Indigenous creatives and centre Indigenous people telling our own stories. It will engage people of all backgrounds with its focus on Guardians’ expertise, resilience, humour, and love of the land.”

The project is currently in pre-development, with Canadian Geographic Films, the RCGS’s production arm, and will begin soliciting broadcast and streaming licenses this winter. “Guardians carry on what Indigenous Peoples have always done: protect the earth for the next seven generations,” said Chief Perry Bellegarde, Honorary President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. “This creative partnership between the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and the RCGS will shine a light on how the work of Guardians sustains the planet and all of our relations — human and beyond.”

The series will include seven 60-minute documentaries, as well as a feature-length film developed for international audiences. Sharing Chief Bellegarde’s enthusiasm Charlene Bearhead, Director of Reconciliation for the RCGS, states “Guardians are the climate and environmental heroes of today who carry the practices, science and knowledge of their ancestors to combat the dire challenges the planet is now facing.” Bearhead concludes, “The stories of the incredible work of Guardians are needed now more than ever. All Canadians, and indeed all global citizens, need the experiences, wisdom and hope that Guardians bring. This Indigenous led partnership is the key to that hope.”

“Elders tell us that if we take care of the land, the land takes care of us. Guardians help honour this responsibility, and it’s great to know more people will see them in action—and through an Indigenous lens,” said Dahti Tsetso, Deputy Director of ILI. Dene Filmmaker Amos Scott is working with the ILI and RCGS team to help develop the series with Indigenous onscreen protocols at its foundation. He will lead a team of Indigenous directors and creatives who will drive the production of the series.

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About the Series
At this critical time for the environment, and for humanity, Indigenous Peoples are caring for their homelands to save the world. This documentary series will show the fragile beauty of nature and offer intimate portrayals of Indigenous Peoples being guardians of the Earth.

About Guardians
Indigenous Guardians serve as the “moccasins and mukluks” on the ground for Indigenous Nations. They are trained experts who manage protected areas, restore caribou, salmon, and other species, and monitor development. There are more than 70 Guardians programs in the country, helping honour the cultural responsibility to care for lands and sustaining natural systems all life depends on.

Media Contacts

Indigenous Leadership Initiative
Sean Durkan: [email protected] (M: 613-851-2151)

Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Andrew Lovesey: [email protected] (M: 416-716-6675)

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