In Canada, a number of public figures have made the front pages for one reason: each has been alleged to be a ´Pretend Indian´. In other words, someone who claims distant indigenous identity but upon deeper scrutiny has been accused of stealing jobs and opportunities from real natives.
But why would someone fake an indigenous identity?
That question is the premise of The Pretendians, as we cross Canada revealing what really lies behind this explosive issue. We go on the hunt for knock-off west coast indigenous art, witness an explosion of dubious Status Indian Claims to get cheap fuel, and unpack where the claims of blood-quantum come from (that idea that one drop of Indian blood is enough to claim indigeneity). We meet people truly seeking, and asking, if they are indigenous – or not – and meets a university teacher fighting Pretendian persecution.
Between the Americas is a search for the iconic sounds of Central America, and what they signify. For a long time, this region seemed to be on the ascendance, but opposing forces have hindered any positive developments. There have emerged two Americas, and in between these two visions, journalist Stef Biemans listens to what Central America has to tell. Biemans has lived and worked in the region for more than 15 years and illuminates the delicate situation of lots of Central Americans in a collidescope of sounds and stories.
Episode One – Listening to San Blas
The Islands of San Blas are inhabited by the Kuna people, an Indigenous people who live on the rhythm of nature. As their islands are at the forefront of climate change, with the Caribbean Sea rising continuously, they face a huge dilemma: relocate to the mainland or to wait until the water comes? Stef Biemans preserves the last sounds of this extraordinary culture: a sewing machine, the threatening waves, a grated coconut and the singing palm tree.
Episode Two – Panama’s Echo
Panama seems to be doing well. The economy flourishes and this results in a vertical building drive and an impressive skyline. Biemans visits the colourful neighbourhood at the foot of these buildings and finds out what has changed for the ordinary people of Panama.
Episode Three – The Silence of Guatemala
If we listen carefully to the stories of the Maya people, we will hear a silence that has lasted for 40 years. This silence is about the genocide that took place under the rule of General Efraín Ríos Montt. It is called The Silence of Guatemala because the mass slaughter off the indigenous people has never been recognized. Has the moment arrived to break the silence?
Episode Four – Costa Rica’s Happiness
Most people in Costa Rica – the happiest country of Central America – say their lives could not be any better. On a scale of 0 to10, the population on average award their happines a 9. But people in neighboring country Nicaragua are feeling far from okay. Recently a stream of refugees has fled to Costa Rica in their search for freedom and safety. Are they welcome and who is entitled to happiness?
We join Thaddeus and Nanci, a Native / Non Native Montanan couple, in the lead up to their wedding, as they face their biggest challenge yet. Thaddeus wants Nanci to convert to his Cheyenne way of life even if it forces Nanci into a subordinate role.
Both Nanci and Thaddeus were adopted as teenagers by families with different ethnicities: Thaddeus by a white Christian family, and Nanci by the Lakota tribe. It’s no coincidence they have sought shared experience and understanding in one another.
Thaddeus believes in returning to his Cheyenne culture and through running sweats he finds peace from the PTSD he suffers. Nanci wants to please him, to find a balance between life in the modern world and her Native traditions even if that means denying her independence.
Under the strain of trying to co-habit and survive together, we see the cracks in their values showing through. Cracks which reveal not just the trauma they suffered growing up, but the chain of oppression endemic in Montana.