Getting a phone call from Indspire Foundation CEO Roberta Jamieson, Barbara Todd Hager — a Saanich-based filmmaker — thought she was going to be offered a contract to direct the promotional videos for the annual Indigenous awards.
Instead, Hager was asked if she would accept the 2019 Indspire Arts Award at a ceremony at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Travelling to Calgary with 11 other Indigenous achievers from coast to coast, Hager received her award in front of 2,000 people which will be broadcast nationally on APTN and CBC on June 23. Previous recipients of the Arts award include Adam Beach, Corrine Hunt, Thomas King, Tantoo Cardinal, Art Thompson, Robert Davidson and Thompson Highway.
In 1994, Hager worked at the project coordinator for the very first awards, then called the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. Now, 25 years later, her life has come full circle.
“When the first awards took place in 1994 … everyone thought it would be a one-time event, ” Hager says. “But it’s just kept going because the awards fulfill an important role in Indigenous communities in Canada.”
Over the past 15 years, Hager has kept herself busy producing, directing and writing Indigenous documentaries for APTN, CTV, CBC and ZDF in Germany. Her work includes the Leo Award winning docu-drama series 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus, along with serving on the board of the Victoria Film Festival and working as the Indigenous film programmer for the 2019 festival.
Following the 1994 awards, Hager wrote a book profiling the 16 recipients of the awards, called Honour Song, which includes biographical essays writen after interviewing notable people such as Elijah Harper, Susan Aglukark, Graham Greene, Robert Davidson, Ted Nolan and Angela Chalmers.
Currently Hager works for the University of Victoria as an Indigenous communications specialist while mentoring young Indigenous filmmakers through the Telus Storyhive program.
“Winning an Indspire Award made me realize that it’s not enough to to reach your own personal career goals,” Hager says. “You have to share your knowledge and skills with Indigenous youth who are pursuing post-secondary education and embarking on careers.”
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