B.C. residents featured on reality TV show challenging Indigenous stereotypes

First Contact follows six Canadians as they learn the truth behind many racial stereotypes

Avonlea Collins says she didn’t know what kind of show it was that she was applying to when she saw the advertisement last spring, but decided to give it a go anyways.

“We didn’t hear any specifics about the show, you just applied if you considered yourself to be an adventurous, outspoken Canadian, which I think I am, so I signed up,” said Collins from her home in Chilliwack.

The show she was applying for, Collins would learn, was for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), and it was going to be a reality, documentary-style show, although the final details weren’t delivered until after cast members had agreed to be a part of the project.

”None of us knew what the show was going on until the end, as (the show’s producers) weren’t informative about the specifics (at the start),” explained Collins.

READ MORE: It may be ‘lights, camera, action!’ for talented Chilliwack doctor

Once selected for the show—First Contact—Collins says cast members were filled in on its purpose and the stories producers were hoping they’d have the opportunity to tell through 28 days of shooting in various locations across the country.

“At first, I was a little worried at the beginning because you’re (always) a little (scared) about how you’re going to be portrayed,” continued Collins.

“But I took that risk, jumped in two feet first, and I’m really happy I did,” said Collins emphatically. “I feel like I have received a really positive outcome from the whole experience.”

However, as they headed into the taping of the show, Collins says she struggled accepting the notion that she possessed stereotypes about Canada’s indigenous population.

Avonlea Collins (centre) tries seal for the first time. Collins, along with five others, spent 28 days travelling across Canada with a camera crew meeting Indigenous people from a variety of different cultures. APTN’s “First Contact” airs Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. (Submitted)

“I grew up in Pemberton, and all my high school life I was in school with indigenous kids and white farm kids,” said Collins. “There wasn’t a lot of diversity, but it didn’t matter. We all grew up together (and) had slumber parties. I didn’t think I had stereotypes, but through this I learned that I do.

“The biggest (stereotype I had) was believing indigenous people are receiving things from the government that I wasn’t, and it felt unfair. (But) through my journey I learned that wasn’t the case what so ever: the money they receive comes from their bands from a trust that’s (not) created (from our tax dollars).

“But now I have a (more complete) understanding of the situation and a drive to learn more,” added Collins.

A exploration into indigenous culture in Canada, First Contact is a three-part series narrated by George Stroumboulopoulos, a well-known Canadian TV personality and social justice activist.

Following the personal journeys of Collins and five other Canadians as they tour indigenous communities from coast to coast, First Contact illustrates the dichotomous relationship still surrounding indigenous communities in an attempt to challenge the perceptions and prejudices about a culture few get to fully experience.

READ MORE: B.C. artist featured on T.V. series highlighting Indigenous tattoo artistry

However, for Collins, shortly after the cameras started following her around the communities they were visiting, she experienced an epiphany: “We became able to ask nearly any question we wanted the answer to … so it made it so I was able to learn more freely, and (the stereotypes fell away) pretty quick when those questions started getting answers.”

Travelling throughout B.C., the show also went into the heart of indigenous communities in Winnipeg, Nunavut, Alberta, and Ontario.

“I couldn’t thank the communities more for (their openness and acceptance of us),” said Collins. “They truly opened up about their hardest times, which is one of the hardest things to do.”

Taping for First Contact took place over the course of 28 days earlier this spring, and during that month, Collins was not only away from both her husband and two small sons, but her contact with them was limited due to the regions they were visiting, and the director’s desire to have them live their experiences on camera, not on the phone talking to their families back home.

However, Collins says it was worth sacrificing that time with her family.

“It was bigger than me and them,” said Collins of her decision to join the show’s cast. “Now they’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Hey! That’s my mom and she did that for us!’”

More-so, Collins says it was also an incredible personal journey and she’s glad for the experience. “We went to a community in Nunavut that I was in awe of,” said the stay-at-home-mom of two.

“The beauty of it and their community, and the way they interacted with each other: it’s not about trading for money or anything, it was about uplifting each other.

“They only looked at their neighbour’s plate to make sure they had enough, not to see what they can take. They’re all incredible human beings, and I hope others can see their culture for what it truly is, not what they may think it is.

”I really just hope other people can see (the show) and see something of themselves in me and apply my learning and experience back to themselves and ask, ‘Would I have gained the same thing?’”

First Contact is a three-night television event, starting Sept. 11 at 7 p.m., comprising three episodes and a two-part reunion special featuring three of the show’s indigenous hosts along with the cast members who will reflect on their experiences before a live studio audience.


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Avonlea Collins, a stay-at-home mom of two spent 28 days away from her family on an adventure through Indigenous Canada filming “First Contact,” which airs on ATPN on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. (Submitted)

Just Posted

Convicted drug trafficker asks Victoria courtroom for chance to ‘turn this around’

Horst Schirmer sentenced for convictions on five counts of possession related to trafficking

Pipeline protestors plan march as Trudeau gives Trans Mountain the go-ahead,

20 kilometre march to protest the pipeline starts in Victoria, ends on Saanich Peninsula

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

$11 million overdraw for McKenzie Interchange construction

The project has been delayed multiple times and is now estimating a budget of $96 million

Alzheimer Society calls for helpline volunteers in Greater Victoria

Charity is in ‘urgent need’ as calls on the rise

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Most Read