The Indigenous Screen Office is aware of the issues of Indigenous identity that have recently been raised within the Indigenous screen sector.
As an Indigenous advocacy and funding organization with the mission of fostering Indigenous narrative sovereignty, the ISO takes such matters very seriously.
The ISO has and continues to develop policies regarding Indigenous identity and makes the majority of its funding decisions through the peer assessment process. This is an ongoing and evolving process and we intend to hold further community consultations in 2021. We will continue to work and collaborate with the Indigenous screen sector and broader community to ensure that we have robust and transparent processes.
We firmly believe that Indigenous opportunities should be directed to Indigenous Peoples. This is what we mean when we speak about Indigenous narrative sovereignty. There are significant complexities surrounding Indigenous identity, however, these should not be used to make claims to Indigeneity.
As an organization, the ISO supports First Nations, Métis and Inuit self-determination and the ability of sovereign nations to determine their own citizenship. We believe that knowing your connection to community and familial ties is an essential component of Indigenous identity. For so many Indigenous people who have been displaced from those connections as a result of colonial practices — including residential schools, Sixties Scoop, urban relocation and the foster care system — we know that this can be a long and difficult journey.
We understand that different nations and Indigenous people have different concepts and approaches to determining identity, and there is not one way to be Indigenous. Lineage, kinship, citizenship, and cultural knowledge are all ways to understand Indigenous identity. For the many who have lost their connections, learning what community they claim and who claims them is a necessary part of the journey, particularly before it comes to claiming resources and opportunities meant to repair the damage that has been done through colonial practices.
We recognize that for reasons both historic and contemporary, these issues are extremely sensitive and can be divisive. We recognize that great harm can be caused when space, resources and opportunities are taken by those with unconfirmed or contested connections to their Indigenous identity.
As an Indigenous organization, we work hard to embody our values and the sacred teachings. Trust, integrity, humility, and transparency are central to all our relationships, and we expect these values to be shared by those who are welcomed into the circle.
Over the last two decades we have seen significant gains in the Indigenous screen sector and this momentum will continue through challenges. We acknowledge this moment as a reminder of our teachings and our commitment to walking the long path of sovereignty and right relations.