TikTok Canada and the National Screen Institute (NSI) have launched an accelerator program aimed at growing the brands of Indigenous content creators. Participants will learn how to maximize TikTok to grow their community while sharing their unique stories in a safe and respectful online space.
Deanne Hupfield is Ojibwe from Temagami First Nation. She was raised in Winnipeg, Man., and Thunder Bay, Ont. Deanne dances fancy shawl, jingle dress and hoop dance. She has spent her life reconnecting to the culture that was taken from her mother through the Sixties Scoop. Everything she has learned about culture and powwow she has brought back to her community. She has been teaching powwow dance and regalia-making in her community for more than 20 years.
Growing up on the margins and witnessing the countless losses in her community Deanne hopes to share content that will support healing and reconnection to culture.
Two Row Times caught up with Deanne to chat about her experience in the program so far:
What do you do on TikTok?
Deanne: I post powwow dance videos and I share tutorials on how to do our dance steps. Lately I’ve been trying to tell stories around powwow. Recently I told a story of how I felt disconnected from my culture growing up because I didn’t have anyone to teach me.
Why did you start making content on TikTok?
Deanne: I post similar content on YouTube already, I started with that near the beginning of the pandemic. And that took off too. I had been watching TikTok and I wanted to start posting but had no idea what to post. I posted the four videos I needed to be considered for the program and I got accepted.
The reason why I post is because my mom was part of the Sixties Scoop and my grandparents went to an Indian Residential School. My family suffers from a lot of intergenerational trauma, addiction, and chaos. Dancing powwow was how I was able to heal my own generational trauma, escape poverty and make a good life for myself and my family.
As I get older I still see constant loss in my community too early due to addiction and trauma. I want to create content that encourages people to learn a healthy way of life, process their trauma, and reconnect to their culture.
What have you learned in the program so far?
Deanne: Every week the participants meet virtually for an hour and a half and we talk about what we’ve learned, or new things we’ve tried on the platform. The organizers also bring in a guest speaker to talk to us about how to best use the app. How to navigate the platform, what buttons do what. We also discuss how it is our social responsibility as Indigenous creators to create content that can help our communities
How did you feel the first time one of your videos went “viral?”
Deanne: I didn’t sleep that night. I had a lot of anxiety realizing that so many people I knew or didn’t know were looking at my videos and content. That whole weekend after I posted my first video that got so many views so fast I was nervous. But then I started to feel really fulfilled with the views and videos blowing up because I was one step closer to accomplishing what I set out to do.
Sometimes people give feedback or leave comments and one time a residential school survivor that I follow commented saying thank you and that made me almost cry. I get so many messages of kindness and support and I really appreciate it.
How do you find motivation and the time to post content when you’re tired?
Deanne: I have to actually schedule in time for TikTok sometimes. I have to wait until my kids aren’t running around and then I set aside some time dedicated just to editing, and filming, and thinking about the caption, time of day, and tags I want to use. It can be a lot sometimes.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start using TikTok the way you do?
Deanne: Be yourself and don’t get obsessed with it. Follow your curiosities and be a scientist. Try new things and see if it takes off or flops. You never know what’s going to take off and what’s not.
What are some challenges you have had to overcome that you weren’t expecting to find on TikTok?
Deanne: Sometimes videos don’t do well that you thought would do well, and that’s challenging trying to figure out why it flopped or what to do differently next time. I try to go into it without having the expectation that it’s going to go viral just because one of your earlier videos did. It’s important to not let my ego get carried away.
Why is it important to engage with your followers?
Deanne: I try to go through my comments and interact with my followers. Especially a lot of my non-Indigenous followers who are asking genuine questions about my culture. I always say they are welcome to participate and watch and learn what I do, but they can not make regalia on their own because it is based on our own unique Indigenous nations.