We spoke with Nakuset, of the Native Women’s Shelter and Resilience Montreal, about her consultant role on the new Crave/APTN series that reflects her life story.
(CULT MTL) June 16, 2023Little Bird is a six-part series by Montreal’s Rezolution Pictures, co-creator and show-runner Jennifer Podemski and playwright Hannah Moscovitch, currently airing on Crave and APTN Iumi on Fridays. The series tells the story of Bezhig Little Bird, who was forcibly removed from her home in Saskatchewan’s Long Pine Reserve and adopted into a Montreal Jewish family at the age of five, becoming Esther Rosenblum. As an adult, Bezhig embarks on epic journey to find her lost family separated by the Sixties Scoop — the forcible removal of approximately 20,000 Indigenous children from their families into the child welfare system in Canada between 1951 and 1984.

Following the series’ run, a 90-minute companion documentary called Coming Home, airing on June 30, will provide historical context about the Sixties Scoop via the real stories of Little Bird’s cast, crew and community advisors. Cult MTL spoke with one of the consultants on the series, Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter and the co-founder and director of development and philanthropy at Resilience Montreal. Nakuset is Cree, from Lac Lorange, Saskatchewan, and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. While the story told in Little Bird differs from her own, 90% of Bezhig/Esther’s experiences in the show were Nakuset’s, too.

Lorraine Carpenter: So how did you get involved with this show?

Naskuset: How it started was that Jennifer Podemski, who is the show runner — she is half-Ojibwe and half-Jewish; she’s a real Jewish Indian, I’m just one because I was adopted — she had started working on this four years ago with Hannah Moscovitch, an award-winning playwright, and they just so happened to watch Becoming Nakuset, so as soon as Jennifer saw it she reached out on Instagram, she’s like, “Oh my God, I just saw your documentary, I love it! I’m doing a series, please, I want to hire you!” and I said okay, because the story is about a native girl who’s adopted into a Jewish family in Westmount, and that’s literally my story. That’s why she wanted to talk to me.

LC: What exactly did you do in your role as a consultant?

N: What I had to do was read the entire script — the series is so well written. I needed to make edits or suggestions, so I did that. Then they had me do a Zoom with Darla (Contois), who plays Esther, and go over her Hebrew, which is funny, so I did that, because I went to Hebrew school. They asked me to come down to Winnipeg for the week of the Westmount filming, so I was there for all those scenes, giving all kinds of input to everything — “Look at the house,” “What do you think what about the scene?” It was really interesting to be there, but it was also very strange — ‘This is your life!’ It was not easy to be there, but Hannah Moscovitch is really the most lovely person ever, and I was so happy to work with her. Jennifer would reach out to me every now and then asking me different questions, and then two weeks ago, she invited me to come down to the screening in Toronto, and they were lovely — they flew me down and put me in a hotel room — but it was also very weird.

Watching it always puts me in tears because there are so many systemic issues in the series. What was nice was that they did all the sound editing here in Montreal, so Jennifer invited me to come to two episodes, to get feedback, but I was in pieces after watching it. The kind of work that I do, it’s weird because it doesn’t really affect me, but when I watch it on screen and see the pain that people go through, I’m on the floor bawling my eyes out thinking they’re going to need to call an ambulance to take me away. I was really affected by it.

LC: A lot of people only recently learned the history of residential schools, but it seems like the Sixties Scoop is not exactly common knowledge.

N: I’m really hoping that this whole series is going to bring awareness to the Sixties Scoop — the social workers, the police, everything — because it continues to happen, and it doesn’t seem like anything is changing. Maybe a series will create better change than the Viens commission recommendations, because Batshaw (Youth and Family Services) still doesn’t apply any of those recommendations — they haven’t done a thing. The Sixties Scoop never ended.

But I’m not the norm for the Sixties Scoop. So many of the Sixties Scoop (survivors) are on the streets; they’re clients of (Resilience Montreal). If they’re struggling, then their kids end up going in care. I’ve broken all the cycles, so I’m not a good example. I’ve used my obstacles as motivation and fuel for rebellion. I need to make things better for the next generation.

Little Bird is currently airing on Crave and APTN Iumi.

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by Lorraine Carpenter