Sarain Fox on Preserving Indigenous Knowledge in Canada and Abroad

Sarain Fox was born into activism. The Anishinaabe storyteller was raised on the shores of Lake Superior by a single mother who dedicated her life to preserving Indigenous knowledge and stories. Now an activist in her own right, Fox co-hosts the APTN docuseries Future History and uses her dance platform to amplify Indigenous voices. (Find out what she packs in her carry-on, here.) A long-time ambassador of the Toronto-based Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, which teaches the art of moccasin-making, she recently helped launch a cross-cultural program in Sydney, Australia, that empowers Indigenous artists and offers travellers an authentic cultural experience.

enRoute What drives your activism?

Sarain Fox I grew up watching my mom fight to preserve our stories and identity. It’s hard not to want to be part of that legacy. I want my kids to see me fight fearlessly for them and help change their future. My mom raised me to be proud of who I am, but I was bullied at my predominantly white elementary school. I lived a double life. I belonged among my people, but I had to dim my light at school. That’s why I do the work that I do. I never want anyone to feel like they have to hide who they are or not be proud of their identity.

ER You started your career as a dancer. What role does it play in your life today?

SF Dance is my first love, so I make it a priority to perform at least once a year. I’ve been collaborating with the Halifax-based choir Xara Choral Theatre for almost 10 years. This fall, we toured a new work called Rings Through Water, a multimedia performance about water protectors and missing and murdered Indigenous women. It’s been an interesting collision of worlds, as an Indigenous performer, to collaborate with a colonial art form like choral. But it has also been an opportunity to create a dialogue and build bridges.

December 2, 2019
A series of three black and white portraits of Sarain Fox

ER Tell us about the program that you recently launched in Australia.

SF This partnership between the KARI Foundation and the TreadRight Foundation, which funds the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, allows Indigenous people in Sydney to change the way tourists learn about their homeland. As an ambassador for this project, I have the opportunity to think about the way that people enter into different homelands and help lead a conversation about how we travel ethically and authentically. It’s about letting travellers bring home a piece of our truth.

ER Where do you love to travel?

SF I have a soft spot for Hawaii and the community’s aloha spirit. I’m really inspired by the Indigenous people who are re-establishing their traditional ways of fishing and growing. During one of my trips, I got to see lava flow into the ocean and literally create new earth. I also love going home to Sault Ste. Marie and the shores of Lake Superior. It’s where I spent my formative years, and it’s where my people have always been. It’s where I go to refuel. It’s home.

ER What can we expect from the next season of Future History?

SF The first two seasons have been about exploring Indigenous knowledge and highlighting the people who preserve it. In season three, which begins filming this spring, we want to tackle the how-to. What practical tools are people using to change the narrative? How are Indigenous people taking up space? How are they contributing to important fields like politics, art and education?

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