PM: What brought you to these communities, and why did their stories resonate with you?
CC: My interest in this community came out of a personal connection. The desire to start this project came from the disparity I kept seeing between what Danielle was telling me about her family and the way Native Americans are usually portrayed in the media but also the preconceptions I had about their culture, which come from centuries of misrepresentation and perpetuated stereotypes. I think that the themes and values that we bring forward in the project are universal. We are talking about a specific culture and the consequences of colonisation and cultural genocide but we are also trying to highlight that the differences that one can find between cultures, traditions and customs are enriching and inspiring. We should not be afraid of what we don’t know or what looks different: despite our own personal journeys and backgrounds, we all have the same needs of being loved, feeling connected, cherished and respected.
PM: Did you easily get accepted and welcomed in the different communities? What were some of the happiest and most difficult moments you encountered while working on the project?
CC: No, I’ve never found it so hard to be accepted and welcomed straight away. I understand the mistrust and the unwillingness to open up: they are the consequences of some of the things we are trying to undo. Having said this, I’ve never felt so accepted and welcome once people understood what our objectives were. We have met people who at first would pretty much refuse to talk to us (or me, being the stranger with a camera), but then we’d find ourselves sat at their dining table going through piles of family albums later on. Once, after we gave a talk at a high school, one of the students took us home so we could meet the rest of the family. They had very little and were not expecting us, but they immediately shared their modest dinner and their stories with us. On a few occasions people have told us that we’ve made them change their perspective on a few things and inspired them to start their own projects. These are the moments we most treasure and the things we try to keep in mind when we are confronted with obstacles or feel discouraged. At the same time, I’ve found it particularly difficult to sit with people day after day and listen to some very tragic stories. We have been brought to tears on several occasions and it once got to the point where I started feeling ashamed of my privilege. I have a loving family, supporting friends, food on the table every day and never had to deal with issues such as alcoholism, abuse, violence, poverty – issues that have touched every single person we’ve met while on the road. This project has undoubtedly changed me and my perspective on life.