Under the Northern Sky
by Xavier Kataquapit
ATTAWAPISKAT – The world is changing rapidly for all of us in the western world. First Nations right across the country are having to deal with development on their traditional lands that is almost overwhelming. New technologies and the arrival of worldwide communications like the internet have changed lives for everyone. Much of this has happened in the past 20 years.
A few decades ago I did not hear of many First Nation people heading off to university or college. These days many of my family members and friends and their children are getting a post-secondary education at college and university levels. They are taking programs in medicine, education, business, construction and the arts.
I always suggest that young people learn as much as they can about a profession or trade they are thinking about before making a decision on their career path. The best way to do that is to talk directly to someone who is working in an area you are considering. Talk to a doctor, nurse, teacher, mechanic, heavy machinery operator, writer, artist or filmmaker before you make a decision to get a realistic view on a particular career. By talking directly to those involved in careers you are considering, you will gain a more realistic view of what you are heading into, how much work is involved in terms of education and lifestyle and how much money you can make.
As a writer, photographer and video producer, I can tell you that if you are considering this career path you will achieve a lot of satisfaction in these areas but you must really value telling stories and hopefully in a way that contributes to a more positive world. As a First Nation writer and photographer, I have always been very proud and felt fortunate to bring my background as an Aboriginal to tell the stories of my people in an uplifting and informative way. I do my best to bring the Aboriginal perspective to all kind of issues and at all levels. That is all very satisfying, however, this is a career profession where generally the monetary rewards are not great so you have to really love what you are doing and find a sense of freedom and purpose in what you do.
If you choose to go into any of the arts, you must be prepared to struggle often to make a living and to try to be as true as possible to your art. I have been very fortunate that I have had the support of First Nation organizations and communities as well as Native and non-Native media over the years and I say Meegwetch to all of them. I also understand that I have been a positive influence with the First Nations I have worked with over the years and assisted in providing them and their employees as well as members with a far-reaching sphere of influence. If you are considering becoming involved in any of the arts you have to know that your work is important and has value.
Too often artists as writers, photographers or any other areas are treated as though their work should be donated more or less and does not have real value. If you become involved in any arts production you should know that when you produce a work for a specific project then you should be paid fairly for your expertise and efforts. I have run into situations over the years where I have met people who believe that they can write as well as any experienced writer, take photographs as well as any professional photographer and produce in other areas of arts better than dedicated artists. That is just not true.
I have also run into people who want to take my work from a specific project and repurpose and use it in other areas. This is not allowed and is very unfair. I have allowed some of this to happen at times over the years but only if the request is made to me and involves a piece of writing or a couple of photos or clips. The way this works on a professional level as an artist is that when you produce writing, photography or video for a specific project then that is where the use ends. A client can not take or ask for your work to use for any other purpose without asking you and you must decide on what you want to allow them to have and at what cost you will charge.
As an artist you should understand your rights. Artists are not second class citizens who have no value or rights. Never let yourself as an artist be bullied by anyone who wants to get their hands on your work without thinking about you. That is not how it works.