Audio-Visual Media and Indigenous Communities

Videos are one of the most popular – and most powerful – ways of disseminating and discussing information. It has been used in some wonderful ways to showcase Indigenous communities for documentaries, re-mixing, and preservation.

The first video that comes to mind for me is a music video done for the song “Cups” (original in 2012 done by Lulu and the Lampshades, remade by Anna Kendricks). The song is performed by Berens River School in the Berens River First Nations community in Manitoba. The effect is beautiful, and it shows some of the issues with reservation life in Canada.

Open source video software is fairly common, with some breakdowns of different options available on various websites. This one, which is called “A Quick Guide to the 5 Best Open Source Video Editing Software” was one I found particularly helpful for beginners, as it runs through some format options as well.

Examples of indigenous conservation through videos is extensive, but an excellent place to start is the National Geographic “Enduring Voices” video and image section. As I sort through more options, I will update this page of the blog.

As a quick aside, I also wanted to bring up an article that was published in The New Yorker on November 17, 2014: “Could a Video Game Help to Preserve Inuit Culture?” The article is worth a read for the content alone, but if there is anyone interested in making their own video game, there is open source software for that too! “How to Make a Video Game (Experience Not Required)” looks at a few open-source and affordable options.



Open Access, Music, and Indigenous Communities

One of the largest areas for collaboration and re-mixing, popular culture has a massive impact on society. Open access resources, including journals, music-mixing software, video-editing software, and more, can help communities create their own content and resources that reflect their heritage and ever-evolving culture.

As with any open access initiative, the idea is to open up new avenues of creation and experimentation to make new possibilities. Open access can be about preserving the cultural heritage of an ethnic group, but it can also offer opportunities to showcase the rich contemporary culture of those groups. For example, Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk throat singer that has won national awards and international acclaim. Traditionally, Inuk throat singing is performed by two female singers, who work off of one another. Tanya has taken her talent with this medium and set it against contemporary style bands to create a wonderful, haunting blend.

Tanya Tagaq’s Animism album trailer can be viewed here. A short biography about her can be found here via the CBC.

There is any number of studies that have been done that show that having cultural representation in popular culture has a huge impact on youth in those communities, so when an artist like Tanya wins a major national award – such as the Polaris Prize in 2014 – it is a huge step forward for the cultural sharing and celebration of, in this case, the Inuk community. More importantly, while Tanya is the most recent and most famous example, there are many other artists who have done similar things in their careers.

Lucie Idlout is also Inuk, and incorporates throat singing as a complement to her lyrics. Her videos can be found here, and sales from her albums go to a women’s shelter in Iqaluit. 

There are any number of other musical artists that incorporate Indigenous language and contemporary and Western instruments and musical theory. Open access musical tools can help communities with little to no funding for these types of projects and software.

Included below are several excellent online open access tools, just click on the name of the resource to check it out!

Some great musical theory courses can be found at:

MIT MOOC courses in Music and Theatre Arts

Yale MOOC courses in Music

Open Music Theory website – a crowd-funded open textbook for musical theory.

More importantly, open access resources for audio recording are available:



There are also music sequencing free/open access software, like Milky Tracker (a bit unfriendly to those new to software, but has a huge range of compatible platforms and functionalities). Giada, designed for DJ’s as a portable plug-ing for sound looping, can also be used as a sequencer, drum machine, and live sampler.

Access to tools like these is fantastic for anyone wanting to develop musical ability, and to play around with their own talents and interests without needing expensive equipment. More importantly, resources like Giada and Audacity can also be downloaded for off-line use, meaning remote communities and individuals without internet access or with intermittent internet access can make use of them as well.