Anishinaabe/Cree director Kevin Settee at Lake Winnipeg. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ventura)
Why Lake Winnipeg? Why does this place matter to you?
All my family, my grandparents included, are from Lake Winnipeg. They all were born, grew up and were raised on the shores. So that’s my connection: my grandparents and growing up spending time on the island.
That said, I’m a city person because that’s where I was raised and that’s where I grew up. I always tell people that I know Winnipeg streets like the back of my hand. But a part of my life has been to learn more about where I come from and to learn my culture. Developing that long relationship is really important. And I think that’s really important for a lot of people. It’s reflective of what I wrote and what I see as important for our people.
What is a cultural practice you reconnected with when filming Lake Winnipeg?
The navigation of the rivers. There are 13 rapids to get to Weaver Lake so it took us six to seven hours to get up river. And that blew me away. And there’s a lot of people who think that people just live on reserves and don’t go anywhere. But people know the land really well. And that’s a theme in the films: land, water and protecting it.
The films are very intimate. They cover subjects from kidney failure to being a young, single mother. How did you encourage people to open up to you?
Every community is different. I have different relationships with each one. Some are my family, some I grew up playing with. But I maintained my connections throughout four years of filming by participating in community activities and photographing events for free. For example, I went to a fishing derby night, took pictures of people having a good time and I posted those photos. So just taking photos, sharing the photos online and building people’s trust.
I remember one time we showed up and someone said ‘hey, you’re the guy who is taking photos that make our community look beautiful.’ So there’s a lot of different layers of things I did. And that’s because I care about this. I care about representation. I care about how my people are seen. I know our people are beautiful and our land is beautiful. So that’s what I wanted to show them.