Nuu-chah-nulth history retold in Knowledge Network series

A new four-part documentary that shines a light on British Columbia’s complex multi-cultural history is about to debut on the Knowledge Network. The series features interviews with people from a variety of cultures knowledgeable about history from their perspective, including Nuu-chah-nulth-aht Joe Martin, Cliff Atleo Jr., and Johnny Mack.

“British Columbia: An Untold History is an immersive four-part documentary series centred on retelling the history of ‘British Columbia’ from a diverse and inclusive perspective by the people who lived it and those who have studied it,” says the producers.

Produced by Leena Minifie (of Gitxaala/British ancestry), the series covers B.C. history, beginning in the late 18th century on through the following two hundred years.

Minifie says she comes from a matrilineal culture: Gitxaala, Gispudwada (Killer Whale Clan) House of Wii'ta'lii. Her father has British lineage.

She is a media, film and television producer and digital strategist based in Vancouver. Minifie is the CEO of Stories First Productions and has produced media projects that include film and television series, documentaries, webinars, as well as radio.

With her own diverse background, Minifie thought it was important to examine the history of the province from other perspectives.

“It doesn’t centre around a white, male-oriented lens; we talked to academics, historians, people with cultural knowledge and people that lived it,” said Minifie. “The project offers a more inclusive and diverse perspective as told from those who have lived and studied B.C.’s shared past and features the voices of authors, historians, elders and descendants of historical figures.”

“This is one of the first times a series has covered racialized Indigenous history through pluralistic and multi-narrative lens,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

Dozens of people from many cultures were interviewed for the documentary, their stories pieced together like a quilt.

British Columbia: An Untold History was commissioned by Knowledge Network.

“It highlights the history, the people, the families, the rebels and the dreamers that shaped this province,” say the producers. The series includes perspectives from Chinese, Japanese, Punjabi, black and European Canadians.

The series begins with the Indigenous landscape before contact and takes the viewer through the colonization and industrialization of the province.

According to Minifie, episode one looks at the early Indigenous resistance to settlers in B.C. and a war that prevented British Columbians from becoming American. Episode two examines the transformative history of labour and the fight for equality by those who helped build this province.

Episode three uncovers the myriad migrant narratives that helped turn B.C. into a centre for social activism.

Episode four is where Tla-o-qui-aht’s Joe martin and Cliff Atleo Jr. of Ahousaht appear. Both speak about the current political landscape in the province as it relates to their respective nations. Minifie says they talk about modern environmental and land movements in British Columbia.

Titled Nature & Co-existence, Episode 4 examines how the history of British Columbia is inseparably fused with the history of natural resources.

“The careful stewardship of the land by First Nations over millennia was disregarded when settlers arrived with industrial mega-projects. Indigenous peoples were among the first to fight deforestation, standing up against logging companies in Lyell and Meares Island,” say the producers.

“When the government offered to designate the land as a national park, Indigenous leaders countered with an idea that had never been tried before: co-management. This push for co-existence succeeded, and today the land is jointly overseen by the Haida Nation and the provincial government, much like the Nuu-chah-nulth in Clayoquot territory. First nation, non-Indigenous environmentalists, and Greenpeace set an example that spread across the world,” the producer says.

Minifie says Joe Martin and Cliff Atleo Jr. were selected as interviewees because they are both very articulate and passionate about their perspectives in life.

“I think it’s the biggest show like this ever premiered,” said Minifie.

More than two hundred stories were researched with 160 of them making it into production. Minifie says not every interview made it into the show, but they can be found on the Knowledge Network website after Oct. 12.

The series premiers Oct. 12, 9 p.m. on Knowledge Network. A new episode will be released each week. Visit the Knowledge Network website after Oct. 12 to stream online or to view more interviews related to the production.

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