School of Communication Professor Explores the Rise of Indigenous Media in Canada

April 25, 2024

SFU School of Communication professor Karrmen Crey focuses her research on examining the rise of Indigenous media in Canada and the institutions of media culture that Indigenous media practitioners have historically engaged and navigated to produce their work. Recently, she published a book titled “Producing Sovereignty: The Rise of Indigenous Media in Canada”. We met with her to discuss the goals of this work and her research.

Producing Sovereignty: The Rise of Indigenous Media in Canada” explores how Indigenous media has flourished across Canada from the 1990s to present day, focusing on how and why there has been an uptick in Indigenous media in the last 30+ years. The book can be seen as the culmination of Crey’s dissertation work from when she was completing her PhD.

Some of the findings that stood out to Crey from her research include discovering that over 50% of Indigenous filmmakers are women, compared to under 10% of filmmakers in mainstream film and media landscapes. She was also fascinated by the rise of Indigenous reality television that began in the early 2000s.

In her book, Crey urges readers to push beyond reductive forms of analysis when discussing Indigenous works in order to give these works the critical analysis that they deserve. To do so, Crey theorizes institutional analysis as a framework for interpreting Indigenous media, looking at the institutions of media culture in Canada through which many Indigenous media makers have produced their work, such as provincial and national television broadcasters, film schools, museums and galleries, and media collectives.

“It’s not enough to interpret Indigenous representation in film and television in terms of understanding how it disrupts stereotypes. We also have to treat these works as sophisticated texts in critical conversation with the conditions of their production, which is reflected on-screen, within the media texts themselves,” she says.

Another goal of Crey’s work is to shine a light on Indigenous creatives that deserve attention but haven’t yet received it. She hopes that the recent success of Indigenous creatives in mainstream media, as seen by director Taika Waititi and others, is a sign of more to come.

“What I’m trying to do with the book is look at areas and histories of production that haven’t had as much attention academically or in the historical record as they deserve,” she says.

Crey is currently on sabbatical, using her time away from teaching to compile an edited collection of Indigenous women’s digital media productions. This work should be available to the public in Spring of next year.