Indigenous

New cartoon Wolf Joe puts emphasis on Anishinaabe culture, teachings

A new animated series that is focused on a First Nations boy and Anishinaabe teachings is giving young Indigenous viewers a chance to see their communities reflected on television.

Voice actors say it's important for Indigenous children to see their communities reflected on TV

Wolf Joe is a new animated series that follows the adventures of Joe and his two best friends. The show incorporates Anishinaabe teachings and was a collaboration with the Turtle Lodge, an Anishinaabe ceremony and education lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. (Amberwood Entertainment/Media Rendezvous)

A new animated series that is focused on a First Nations boy and Anishinaabe teachings is giving young Indigenous viewers a chance to see their communities reflected on television.

Brett Huson, who is Gitxsan from Gitxsan territory in British Columbia, is the voice actor for Chief Madwe on Wolf Joe, airing on TVOKids and Radio Canada.

After watching the first handful of episodes online this weekend, Huson said his children, ages seven and 10, "are happy to see people that look like themselves."

"I sat down with my kids and watched," he said.

"They heard my voice and they saw my character. It was quite amazing to see my daughter's eyes; it was heartwarming to see."

Voice actor Brett Huson watched episodes with his children. He says the show will help break down stereotypes that non-Indigenous people have about Indigenous peoples. (Brett Huson)

The show was created by Alexander Bar and is a collaboration between Winnipeg production company Media Rendezvous, Amberwood Entertainment and the Turtle Lodge, an Anishinaabe ceremony and education lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba.

To make sure the storylines and direction of the show were in line with Anishinaabe teachings, the producers of the show relied on Turtle Lodge elder and knowledge keeper Dave Courchene Jr.

"It's good wholehearted teachings that come from people who are raised in the culture," said Huson, who is also an children's book author.

"I would say definitely it's a great show to watch regardless of what nation you're from."

Realistic role

Joy Keeper from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba is a grandmother of three and the voice actor of Kokum on the show. She said her character is an accurate reflection of a grandmother's role in Indigenous communities.

"There's something going on in the community — she's got to get over to the hall. She's got to control everybody at the hall. She's making food and the bannock is coming out of her oven," she said.

"I think those kinds of messages were so realistic in terms of how the women, the kokums, the mothers, are leaders in the community and they run the community."

Joy Keeper is the voice of Kokum on the show. She says the portrayal of her character is a realistic representation of grandmothers in Indigenous communities. (Joy Keeper)

One of the producers from Media Rendezvous, Charles Clément, said he hopes the show inspires children around the world, but especially Indigenous youth.

"The message of the show is it's about Joe, a young First Nations boy and his community called Turtle Bay, and so it's Joe and his friends who who take on and overcome all of life's daily challenges that little kids and older ones like us have to overcome every day," said Clément.

There are currently 46 11-minute episodes that have been produced. Viewers can find the show on TVOKids cable and YouTube channels, the Knowledge Network and Radio Canada.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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