Television is our window into the greater world. It is a view of our planet that we may never get to see in person during our lifetime, showing us places we may have read about or heard of from other people.
I remember sitting at home in Attawapiskat in the evenings and relaxing in front of the television with my brothers. We watched any old program. We didn’t have much choice and we ended up viewing news programs, TV sitcoms and even black and white film classics. The most exciting time around the TV had to do with wildlife documentaries.
I suppose it was our close connection to the land that captivated us as we watched documentaries of all types about animals on the land, from closer to home in Canada and from far-away places that were foreign to us.
Mom and dad enjoyed these shows, especially when they featured familiar creatures and animals from along the James Bay coast. Although they had many experiences with animals and birds on the land many animals remained elusive to them. In many cases they had stories of coming upon scenes of rare animals where evidence had been left of a hunt and kill or bedding overnight.
However, in real life they never got the chance to see a migration of geese from the air, a close-up of a hunting polar bear wandering on the ice floes, or the daily lives of the tiniest creatures that live on the land. It must have been a surprising realization to watch the world they grew up in from a new point of view from the comfort and warmth of their own home.
We were also amazed at the great variety of animals and creatures that we learned about on TV. Some were familiar like the geese that migrate between Europe and northern Africa. They have different markings or make different sounds but they still look like the geese we see in the north every spring. The same went for ducks, cranes and crows from other parts of the world. Even land animals like hyenas, jackels and wild dogs were closely related to wolves and foxes. We recognized big cats like leopards, lions and tigers as being similar to lynx, bob cats and cougars from our part of the world.
However, we were mesmerized by the lumbering elephant, tall giraffes, alligators, crocodiles, penguins, monkeys and baboons, all the great fish, dolphins and whales of the ocean and everything in between. Much of the time we were very thankful the more dangerous ones were not nearby.
As children we learned about the different animals of the planet from our studies in school. But our parents had little education so it must have been quite the shock to have been introduced to all the varieties of animals across the globe. I have witnessed my mom and dad glued to the TV in awe of multicoloured birds of paradise from the Pacific, strange lizards and animals from Australia, wildebeest and zebra from Africa and tigers and pandas from Asia.
Even today if a wildlife program pops up on the TV, my parents put everything aside to view the animals, birds and sea creatures. They don’t understand all of the narration in English but it really does not matter much because they are watching more as hunters and gatherers. They understand very well what is going on in the animal kingdom of survival on the land.
I still enjoy watching nature documentaries. At Christmas I got a great gift of a multi-DVD collection called Planet Earth, a BBC documentary series that highlights every part of the globe, from the deep oceans, dry deserts, jungles, mountain terrain and the frozen lands at either pole. It exposes many different parts of our world in great detail and shows the familiar sights and sounds of our northland, as well as rare images of animals and creatures that are on the brink of extinction.
After viewing any part of this remarkable series I feel a great sense of our awareness of the planet Earth. It puts me in touch with just how how fragile our planet is. It also makes me realize how we are impacting the rainforests, ice fields and water bodies. It reminds me how we are connected to everything on this planet no matter what the distance.
I just hope that this brilliant series drives us all to realize that we have a wonderful home planet to protect for future generations. It is my great fear that it might end up as an historical documentary of how things were. The choice is ours.