Rhonda Lee McIsaac
Language preservation, storytelling and children go hand-in-hand when education and culture intersect at an elementary level. From an Indigenous perspective, this has always been a way to teach – by watching, listening and doing.
In the spring of 2018, CBC is preparing to air a pilot TV series featuring Haida language, culture, and the familiar face of Haida actor, Marika Gladstone. Gladstone is the daughter of Ernie Gladstone and Jennifer Byrne-Wissink who travelled with her to Edmonton for the filming.
The Girl Who Talks to the Moon, combines the elements of stop motion animation, live action, and hand puppets. “I wanted to create a show that would teach kids universal values, but I also wanted to create a show that would help preserve and promote Indigenous culture and language,” says Rebecca Campbell, the show’s producer.
The filming of a five-minute web pilot episode for CBC Kids Digital took place in Edmonton. “Marika was excellent,” said Campbell. The pilot episode goes live on their digital platform in the Spring of 2018.
“We hope that it moves to a series, although it’s currently only at pilot stage, and we will have to wait to find out if a series is in store for The Girl Who Talks to the Moon,” says Campbell.
A strong Haida connection was built with the assistance of Heather Hatch and Frederick Kroetsch, both producers with Catapult Pictures. Hatch served as the Haida consultant for the project. Hatch worked with the SHIP program to ensure proper translations for the pilot and also had numerous consultations over the phone with Elder Gwaganaad Diane Brown. Hatch’s family connections served her well and ensured the accuracy of the language and cultural components in the pilot.
Finding a Haida actress was important to the program.
“We wanted to keep the show as genuine as possible,” Campbell said. A search was conducted during a visit by producer and consultant Heather Hatch in 2017. It was Skidegate Haida Immersion Program elder, Sgaamsgid Harold Williams, that passed on Marika’s name to Hatch. Gladstone had worked with Sgaamsgid on the upcoming Haida language film, The Edge of the Knife.
“We loved her audition, and it continued from there! Her family has been supportive and wonderful,” said Campbell.