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Story producing and story editing a feature documentary together with Indigenous architects in development with TVO.

March 2018

Story Producer and Story Editor


Unceded is directed by Ron Chapman and produced by HLP Productions Inc.

Indigenous architecture is at the forefront of design worldwide. Faced with issues of global warming and resource conservation Indigenous architects are leaders in aesthetic, form and sustainability. Indigenous architecture, derived from nature, considers the impact on every aspect of life.

Indigenous architects working in North America are significant. They are driving a global movement.

With unlimited access, Unceded follows six diverse Indigenous architects as they express the vital process of Indigenous architecture through the design, build and completion of projects in Indigenous and non Indigenous locations and communities across North America. Told from the point of view of these brilliant, accomplished architects, the film is a window onto the road less traveled, and into the world of Architecture where a conversation is happening now, a conversation paramount to changing how the world approaches our environment.

From the dynamic Tammy Eagle Bull, the first woman architect in North America, trail blazer Wanda Dalla Costa, young, maverick Matthew Hickey and his mentor/partner Brian Porter, controversial visionary Daniel and guru Douglas Cardinal, the first Indigenous architect in the world, they define their individuality through their artistry but bond in their philosophy and principles of Indigenous architecture. They are diverse in gender, age, sexuality and artistic approach, yet they find common ground in their Indigenous identity.

Their stories and work are deeply rooted in the idea that buildings are alive and rooted in the place they stand and the people who inhabit them. Indigenous architecture has a very strong utilitarian approach, which is spiritual in nature. A building has to function because it houses life and ensures life will continue. A building, from its earliest conception and community consultation, to construction and completion, is not isolated but will always be part of the global ecosystem. Each and every building matters.

The architects all know each other and their work. But their Indigeneity, past and present is individual and their Nations, through their culture, are as diverse as foreign countries. While their point of reference on the past has some unity, they have their own perspectives on tradition, ceremony and the past 500 years.

Douglas Cardinal, a traditional elder, is deeply grounded in ceremony, his history with colonization and his people, while Brian vehemently disagrees and doesn’t want anything to do with ceremony. Young Matt, while very knowledgeable about Indigenous history, has never experienced racism himself, while Tammy balanced her youth on the tight rope between the white, middle class world she lived in and her Lakota culture. Daniel is definitive about not identifying with the colonial victim narrative and wanting to leave the trauma behind, while Wanda believes in empowering youth through architecture and connecting all communities through the buildings they inhabit. Together, they are all changing the world, one Indigenous architectural student and one design at a time.

Douglas Cardinal has created a collaboration of 18 Indigenous architects from North America to work together on a major installation for the Venice Biennale, May 2018. Through out the film, we experience our characters coming together to work on this project in the midst of their own demanding and significant contracts.

Each architect in the film has harrowing tales of growing up with effects of colonialism: Dysfunction, poverty, violence but they all overcame adversity to become the top in their field. They exemplify success.

The narrative in Unceded is a beautiful blend of common ground and conflicted points of view and yet through their personal and professional stories articulates Indigenous architecture and it’s relevance in today’s world. We will come to realize that Indigenous architecture isn’t limited to North America alone, but that the group we are following is part of a global movement.

As Tammy, Wanda, Daniel, Matt, Brian and Douglas travel to New Zealand to collaborate with the Maori we witness first hand the global significance of the Indigenous philosophy in design and architecture which opens our eyes to the possibilities of a new world view of cities, communities, and the way we live.

In the end, all of our diverse and unique characters (part of a contingency of 18) travel to the Venice Biennale as they are honoured, for the first time in history, as Indigenous Architects from Turtle Island through a spectacular installation, an event of unprecedented importance. For the first time the architecture of Turtle Island will take its rightful place on the world stage of architecture.

Unceded is a unique and inspiring story of a proud and accomplished collective of individuals committed to their culture, their land and traditions, their profession and its influence on reviving their nations and sharing their knowledge with us all.