Stories of the North has big plans for second season

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Media representatives interview Dr. Morris Cook about what’s new in Stories of the North’s second season.

Mooshum and his granddaughters are back in their northern cabin sharing their love of Cree language and culture.

Video series Stories of the North, which premiered in early 2023, kicked off filming for season two with a media Open House. Like the first season, Stories of the North, focuses on the preservation and sharing of the Cree Language and culture.

Dr. Morris Cook plays mooshum. Cook said they’re looking to build on what they established in season one.

“Last year, when we did this first, we introduced the language, We had colours, we had animals. (We were) more or less introducing the audience to the basic of Cree in the relationship towards the people, our people. I am a fluent Cree speaker, so very passionate about what I do here not only as the actor but also as a Cree speaker out in the community, and also as an educator.

“Season Two has taken a little bit forward of that. (We’re) focusing on relationships, so we’re put into relation, we’re put into activities, like fishing for example, and a little more action this year. Last year was mostly sitting on this little couch, here. There’s still some of that too, but, there’s a little more action this year, and, it’s more contextual. You’re going to see great things this year.”

Kyle Burgess and his spouse, Allia Janzen, own Campfire Stories Video Production company and opened the door for the creation of this project.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Mya Hoskins Fiddler and Dr. Morris Cook do some last-minute rehearsal, with owner/producer Kyle Burgess, before filming.

“We want to be good allies in our community and give people the opportunity to tell their stories that might not otherwise have had an opportunity,” Burgess said. “That’s how we really wanted to be involved in Indigenous storytelling. Creating an environment where creators and actors can come together and make something important to them. And we’re big on family.”

Although neither Janzen nor Burgess are Indigenous, they are committed to supporting Indigenous language and culture revitalization. More than 80 percent of the people working on the series are Indigenous.

Betty Ann Adam, journalist with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, who originally hails from Fond du Lac, was director for all the first year and four of the new season episodes.

“They have done a wonderful project of bring together Indigenous people who work in film and other kinds of creative production, so here they have hired, not all, but most Indigenous people.,” she said. “I came to this as a journalist and writer. I had no experience as a director, but they invited me to come in and work with them, learn with them. They agreed to be my safety net, if necessary, and give me this wonderful experience, but, likewise, they invited many other Indigenous people.

“Of course, all of the actors are Indigenous, we have a camera operator, whose Indigenous, Many of the people involved have been Indigenous, of course all of the writers have been Indigenous, the animators, the artists, everything around it. I mean the people who support (the series). The the set decorator is Indigenous. The people who make gifts, like ribbon skirts for the girls and ribbon shirts for the actor, those are all Indigenous people. They even go to Indigenous companies for the catering,” she said complimenting Janzen and Burgess.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. The episode goes into filming mode.

Growing up, Adam said she didn’t see shows featuring Indigenous children or Indigenous languages.

“I’m from an age where I remember, Mr. [Dressup] and Friendly Giant and I caught a Canadian television show that had a segment with a French woman who would teach a few words of French on every episode … now, I love the idea that Indigenous kids can watch and learn a few words of Cree … in the conscious of Indigenous life experience,” she said.

Language and culture enhancement are key to the second season of the series.

Nestled in the upstairs owner of a storefront building is a perfectly detailed Northern Saskatchewan trapper’s cabin. Open shelving with items like the old honey pails kids used to take their lunches to school; useful, simple items all handy for use, practical. Also, the woodfire, to provide warmth on cold winter days and nights.

It’s the set of TV series Stories of the with North with mooshum, played by, Cook, his granddaughters, played by Claire Walker and Mya Hoskins Fiddler, as he teaches them about their Cree language and culture, in more detail in the second season as the stories to evolve.

Unlike the one highway in and out of La Ronge, many trails connect Stories of the North to La Ronge.

Harmony Johnson Harder lived many years of her life in La Ronge, she is one of the four producers for the series, and wrote two of the second season episodes.

“The one about the Little People and one about our Little Grandmother Spider. When fully produced there are seven minutes long and they are a combination of animation and live action.”

Cook will interpret the Cree words for his granddaughters and “there will be an animations aspect of Morris telling stories,” Johnson Harder said, adding Season Two is a continuation in process.

Moving into the second season has worked well, she said.

“First Season learned some valuable lessons. Moving forward into the second season, you know, overcame all those challenges from before, so, like things are running smoother and we’re learning new lessons.” 

She also said the scripts have changed for the second year, they “share more of our way-oof-being as Cree people.”