Two Indigenous producers who have worked in the entertainment and broadcasting industry for over 20 years are launching their first television series.
“We are revitalizing our passion for our profession; it’s the dawn of a new day for us,” said Shirley McLean, who is a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation in the Yukon.
In 2020, she and Tania Koenig-Gauchier created Vancouver-based Wapanatahk Media, which in Cree means “the first morning star of the day.”
McLean said the name represents a fresh start, even though they have been in the business since the 1990s.
“Indigenous stories make national and mainstream media headlines — it’s no longer a niche market,” McLean said.
The company’s first series, Dr Savannah: wild rose veterinarian premiered on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network on May 3 in Cree and in English on May 4.
The docuseries is based in rural Alberta and is about a young Métis woman who has achieved her dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Kerry Moraes-Sugiyama, head of original programming at APTN, worked with Koenig-Gauchier and McLean on the production of the series from the start.
“Dr. Savannah: Wild Rose Vet is absolutely amazing when it comes to gender parity because 10 of their 15 key designers are women,” Moraes-Sugiyama said.
“We come from a matriarchal culture where women have powerful voices and that reflects our traditional culture very well. We [also] have fantastic female role models in many professions.”
Wapanatahk Media also aims to bring Indigenous stories to the forefront of mainstream media with authentic representation.
“Representation is definitely important,” said Koenig-Gauchier, who is Cris-Métis.
“Our people are funny. They’re fun. We’re family-oriented. We love our communities. We also want to bring shows to mainstream networks that have never seen Indigenous people represented in this way before.”
A companion podcast to the series launched on May 18 and is available on all major streaming services.