I'll give it to you straight. "8th Fire," the CBC's four-part TV series on how to create a new relationship with Canada's Aboriginal Peoples, is the most challenging series I've worked on in 40-some years as a practicing journalist. It's also for me, the most humbling and the most exhilarating.
It's challenging because, after 500 years of colonialism, conflict and denial, it takes you right into the heart of what each of us, and Canada, is all about. A nation of white settlers (yes, I know, now we're multi-hued, but those first arrivals were all "whities") who stretched ourselves out across a vast land that, oops, actually belonged to someone else.
Trust me: "8th Fire" is not about beating you up for past or present grievances; it's about finding a way forward to a respectful accommodation with each other, getting past stereotypes, myths and misunderstandings. Even those nasty bits like "they don't pay taxes" and "they get everything for free." That's where the humbling part comes in. Working on this project makes you mightily aware of how little we know about each other thanks to some gaping holes in our education system.
But let's get to the exhilarating. You're going to meet an intriguing, amazing, diverse crowd of First Nations, Inuit and Metis. Many of our characters belong to the first generation not subjected to residential schools with its devastating determination to "kill the Indian in the child", and they are seven generations removed from the Declaration of the Indian Act in 1876. As the Anishnaabe prophecy goes, this Seventh Generation now has the opportunity to reconcile with the "settler" community and together build the "8th Fire" of peace, justice and harmony.
In Alberta, Comedian Howie Miller and his celebrity son, New Moon star Tyson Houseman explore the complexities of Aboriginal identity; in Quebec Dr. Stanley Vollant is walking thousands of kilometres to touch your heart and Winnipeg's" Most "will get you rapping about change. Meet the challenging and audacious Toronto artist Miss Chief Eagle Testickle and sip a vintage wine with Chief Clarence Louie among the vineyards on his BC reserve.
Celebrate with Vanessa Pegan, mother of six who's escaped the cycle of poverty and just landed a coveted bank job. And if you think Indians don't "get" their own issues, we'll drop in on the set of "Blackstone", a gripping Aboriginal drama series about corruption, addiction and nepotism on a reserve.
This four-hour series offers high-energy ideas, original music and stunning landscapes -- and a rich, video and fact-filled digital site with stories from a team of Aboriginal filmmakers across the country.
Most of all, "8th Fire" will offer you the way forward to a second chance to get the relationship right.