Waukomaun Pawis

When Waukomaun Pawis, Ojibwe from Wasauksing First Nation, isn’t busy working with TakingITGlobal and educating the youth on the Connected North program, he does other work as an Indigenous filmmaker. But it wasn’t easy to get there.

Growing up in Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, Pawis says he had a lot of obstacles in his youth including his parents splitting up when he was young, no running hydro and water at times, and moments where food was scarce. Regardless of everything, he says he was still grateful.

“I had a view on life that no matter how bad things were, I should be grateful for the things that I have,” said Pawis.

He would count the things he was grateful that he did have and would think about the people that weren’t so fortunate as him. Among this, his school and the cultural teachings he was being taught helped him keep a positive mindset.

“I know that I just felt very fortunate and very lucky to have the upbringing that I have and to have those supports around me, despite those obstacles and those challenges.”

Image for post
Illustration by Kailey Sheppard

Pawis left his community to pursue the goal of being behind the camera as a filmmaker and went to school at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario — a 5 hour journey from his community.

The transition from moving from his community to where his school was “relatively smooth,” largely due to the fact his best friend had been at the same school a year prior and asked Pawis to live and find a place together.

Another huge help was the Aboriginal Resource Centre at his school, which was a space and resource for Indigenous students. There, he says, they would help find work if needed, places to live, and other things to help students if needed.

“That was a place that I could also go to, to feel more comfortable to see others, meet other youth and students that had come from communities. They really took care of us there.”

For three years, Pawis studied the ropes learning about the world of filmmaking, dabbling in every aspect imaginable from writing to creating documentary style videos.

“We really got to explore all the different areas within filmmaking, from pre-production to production, to post-production and all the roles that fit within that.”

With one of the skills he learned at school, Pawis cold called Big Soul Productions, an Indigenous film production company in Toronto. There, he asked to speak with the president of the company, Laura Milliken, to have five minutes of her time. That phone call lasted over an hour, which led to her scheduling an interview for a job that was coming up within the organization.

He started out working on a series called By The Rapids working as a production assistant, getting coffee and helping out behind the scenes. He then moved on to help out with editing in post-production of the series, and was given the opportunity to show what else he had.

“For me, it was all about creating an opportunity and when that opportunity arose, I took it.”

Pawis did a behind the scenes shoot for a music video and just continued being a jack of all trades from there — doing production, video production, working with the camera, editing, and more.

Now, Pawis works with TakingItGlobal. He has always had an interest in education, and after graduating from his college he worked to do outreach to Indigenous youth to promote post-secondary education. He saw a job opening to work for a program called Connected North, which works in education, and was interested in bringing the worlds of education and his passion for filmmaking together.

“The stars aligned for me. And it allows me to really promote and connect youth with future pathways, education, careers, and that sort of stuff. And I just really like meeting youth and just sharing those opportunities with them.”

Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.

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