Indigenous art abounds, from literature to theatre to music. And programming for kids is no exception. These TV shows and movies are educational, funny and dynamic, while also rich in culture and history.
Available in both English and Inuktitut, this educational children’s series mixes animation, puppets and live-action. It’s hosted by Inuk musician Riit (ᕇᑦ; the stage name of Rita Claire Mike-Murphy). The series is loosely based on classical educational series such as Sesame Street, Mr. Dressup and Dora the Explorer.
Anaana means mother in Inuktitut, Riit explains in the opening episode. So Annana’s tent becomes a place for people to stay and learn. Set in the Arctic, this distinctly Northern show showcases talent from across Nunavut and introduces new cultural traditions and language to children across Canada.
Billed as the first-ever kids’ series to feature an Indigenous lead character, this show follows the resourceful Molly Mabray, who has cultural heritage from three Athabascan nations: the Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina.
Molly helps her parents run the Denali Trading Post in interior Alaska. She and her friends explore the epic surroundings and rich Indigenous culture of their home. The first episode addresses residential schools and offers a way to talk about this sensitive topic with young ones.
This stop-motion animation series offers a charming – and humorous – look at contemporary life in a fictitious Cree community in northern Saskatchewan and follows the adventures of a group of young people: Raven, Talon and their cousin T-Bear. Through their exploits, they all learn valuable life lessons.
Besides teaching young people about Cree culture, the series offers universal themes such as honouring tradition and co-operation among friends. The series is also available in French and Cree versions via NFB.
This series set in the fictitious small town Monte Macabre features two half-brothers who get up to all sorts of strange and supernatural shenanigans when the myths and legends of the Mesoamerican folklore come to life.
Created by Diego Molano (who is of Mexican, Colombian and Cuban descent, and has written for shows such as The Powerpuff Girls), the show introduces viewers to Aztec, Olmec and Mayan mythologies mixed in with the zany humour of children’s entertainment. Molano started drawing these characters when he was a college student, based on the folk tales his grandfather told him.
This is a bit of a cheat. Whale Rider, a fantastic New Zealand film featuring Maori traditions, came out in 2002. So I also wanted to offer a more recently released option. The fact that The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw (2019) is set in Sudbury, Ont., is icing on the cake.
Both films star strong Indigenous young women as the lead character. Whale Rider is set in a small coastal village, where Maori male heirs born to the head of the clan become the next leader. When a young woman, Pai, lays claim to the title, she has to fight her tradition-bound grandfather to fulfill her destiny.
The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw is about a young woman who wants to save the world by designing amazing hats. When Mitzi gets accepted into fashion school, she is elated. However, news of her mother’s ill-health pulls her back to her reserve. Which life will Mitzi ultimately choose? That’s the tension of this dramedy using comedy and satire to dig into some hard truths.
These films features more mature themes and would make for great conversation starters between parents and kids.
If you have more suggestions of Indigenous programming that I should check out, send them along to [email protected]
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