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RAVEN (De)Briefs Podcast: Indigenous Law in Action

By Susan Smitten, Host

October 7, 2020

Review By Lydia Toorenburgh

Season one of the RAVEN (De)Briefs podcast series is a refreshing Indigenization of the traditional podcast format in that it evokes everyday kitchen table conversations among relatives, combined with sonic, Indigenous documentary. Exploring contemporary environmental struggles, such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Delgamuukw v. British Columbia landmark court cases, and grassroots Indigenous resistance movements like the Wet’suwet’en land defenders,  RAVEN (De)Briefs skilfully illustrates Indigenous law in action. RAVEN stands for Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs – an apt description of this series as a whole. Based on Lekwungen-speaking territories (present-day Greater Victoria region), RAVEN supports Indigenous communities in taking legal action through funding and awareness campaigns. The series is hosted by RAVEN co-founder and executive director Susan Smitten in a manner clearly demonstrating her filmmaker background. Her approach is reminiscent of that of renowned Indigenous filmmakers Christine Welsh and Alanis Obomsawin in that she introduces listeners to speakers, musicians, and new concepts in an accessible manner, yet allows the content to speak for itself. She braids together the impassioned words of guests such as Dr. John Borrows and Nikki Iyolo Sanchez, sound clips from frontline warriors, and the innovative music of artists like Jeremy Dutcher and Digging Roots, creating an Indigenous montage that entertains, fascinates, and informs the listener.

In the tradition of Indigenous scholarly ethics of self-location (Kovach 2009, 109–20), I introduce myself as an otepimisikwew (Cree-Métis woman) with settler and immigrant ancestry. I am also a lifelong guest on Coast Salish territories and research Indigenous approaches to audiovisual research methodology at the University of Victoria, and therefore I am very pleased to be invited to write this review. The content of the series, primarily set in the context of British Columbia, pays particular attention to current solidarity actions such as the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and the recent Indigenous youth occupation of the Legislative Assembly, doing so in a way that is accessible to those who are not familiar with these regions, disputes, or events. Further, the content engages the listener by deeply exploring the themes of politics and activism as they relate to the law. I did find, as an outsider to the discipline of law, that the concepts were accessible but also complex, demanding great attention from both the mind and the heart – this may not be the podcast to listen to while doing errands!

In Episode 2, guest Saul Brown states: “We don’t need to look outside for the answers to the outside world anymore … what we have is the ability to look inward, back to the brilliance of our ancestors, to the brilliance of those teachings, and say ‘Yes, these can be utilized and they do have value to address contemporary issues’” (13:00). This podcast does just that. It refreshingly invites listeners to “look inward” to the “brilliance” of our Indigenous leaders and educators in attempting to understand these issues rather than engaging in the more tiresome endeavour of filtering through often incomplete or biased news reports. As a critical listener, I must share that I felt the need for a greater emphasis on including the voices of Elders. Having said this, I have only had the opportunity to review the first seven episodes in the series, and future releases may indeed have more emphasis on Elders’ input. Overall, I would recommend this podcast as a great example of public knowledge mobilization that opens a door to the work of RAVEN and provides insight into Indigenous law, resurgence, and sovereignty for Indigenous and non-Indigenous listeners alike.

Work Cited

Kovach, M. 2009. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Publication Information

RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), 2020.

https://raventrust.com/raven-briefings-a-podcast/