Nicole Watts is an up-and-coming photographer too.
A young Tseshaht woman has won an award at the Cowichan Aboriginal International Film Festival for a documentary film about aboriginal teen parenting.
Nicole Watts, now 21, became pregnant at the age of 15. As a young mother, Nicole sought out resources for teen parents in Port Alberni and quickly noticed that many of the teaching materials had little relevance to the aboriginal population.
“Most of the parenting videos I saw were about nuclear families or non-native parents,” Watts said, adding the videos missed cultural and community components that are so strong in the first nations communities.
“Aboriginal people are so community-based. We always have each other, even if we didn’t grow up on the reserve,” Watts said.
At the age of 19, Nicole reconnected with her former drama teacher, Kerry Robertson. Robertson had begun making a documentary resource film called The Parenting Path, which focused on Nuu-chah-nulth families.
Looking for people with experience in dealing with young first nations families, Robertson contacted Nicole’s mother, Jackie Watts, who works in the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s Aboriginal Infant Development Program as the Senior Early Years Outreach Worker. As a teen mother, Nicole was also invited to take part.
Inspired by the idea of parenting films for aboriginal teens, Nicole began talking to Robertson about ideas for a new documentary.
“I thought it was a good idea because the statistics are so high for aboriginal teen pregnancies and resources are few,” she said.
Robertson and Watts began filming Our Stories: By First Nations Teen Parents back in 2012 with funding from the Vancouver Island Health Authority. They started by interviewing teen mothers taking part in the Hummingbird Daycare Mother’s Group, something Watts had been involved with.
Soon, the list of interviewees grew to include the parent of a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, teen parents who were themselves in the foster care system and non-aboriginal mothers with first nations babies.
The film was completed in 2013 and will be an eye-opener for viewers, who are advised to bring Kleenex. To order the DVD, send a request via email to Juliana.firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $10. See the promo on the Ha-Shilth-Sa homepage at the bottom right.
The doc is described as a frank, heart-warming, emotional exploration of the experience of first nations teen pregnancy and parenting.
“This film is for anyone,” Watts said. “It is a good resource for young parents and for those working in middle and high schools.”
The film was entered into the Cowichan Aboriginal International Film Festival at a time when Watts was working on her final exams for her University Transfer Program.
During the month of April, Watts would spend her days cramming for final exams and her evenings taking part in the film festival.
Her efforts paid off. She not only won first place in Best Documentary for Youth over 18 Award at the Cowichan Aboriginal International Film Festival on April 25, but she also won a scholarship to the Gulf Islands School of Film and Television.
Watts is still trying to figure out which career path she wants to follow, but says she loves the visual arts and will definitely use her scholarship. She is looking forward to spending summertime with her now six-year-old daughter Tia and her fiancé Damon.
Watts plans to enter her video in more contests and hopes it will gain international recognition.
“It’s geared toward Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and Vancouver Island first nations, but it’s also useful for non-natives,” said Watts. The difference for me is our culture; there may be differences in family teachings but they’re very similar, she continued.
Her overall message is to young first nations parents. “You are not alone.”