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Perspective, persistence and passion.

She's the star of her own show, but you'll never see her profiled on it. Perhaps you should.

Brenda Chambers is the executive producer and host of Venturing Forth, a television documentary series that airs on the Aboriginal People's Television Network (APTN) that features stories about entrepreneurs and Aboriginal economic development across Canada. In March, she received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the media and communications category.

"It's an incredible honor, that's for sure," Chambers told Windspeaker. "It's quite surprising, and to be recognized for the work that I've done. There's so many other people that have been involved in my life and my career, so it's not just me. I really feel that the recognition goes out to all those people that have been a part of my team over the years."

The media entrepreneur from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations has had many outstanding achievements over her 20-year career. After graduating from Grant MacEwan College's audiovisual production program in Edmonton, she returned home to the Yukon. In 1986, she began work on Nedaa, a magazine-format television show for Northern Native Broadcasting. In 1991, she became the executive director of Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon. Over the years she helped develop the CBC Northern Network, Television Northern Canada and APTN. She has created numerous television programs, including a four-part current affairs series for CBC television called All My Relations.

As the owner of her own company, Brenco Media, she is also one of only a few independent Aboriginal television producers. Chambers said the motivation for her to create her company came when CBC was taking its time to renew the All My Relations series.

"I said, 'You know what? I've got the talent. I've got the experience to put together a team. I just need to raise money. I can run budgets. I've got the team actually. They're all freelancers anyhow, so I'll just go out and raise the money and do it myself. Otherwise, I'll always be working for someone else and having to decipher the message through them. So, let's put together an Aboriginal crew and tell Aboriginal stories from our perspective with our authentic voice.'"


As a result, in 1999 Brenco Media started producing Venturing Forth, now in its fifth season. The series has since won an Aboriginal Media Arts Award.

"She's one of the only Aboriginal TV producers in Canada that is raising her own money and doing everything on her own, and that's really respectable. That's hard," said Tania Koenig-Gauchier of the Peavine Metis settlement in Northern Alberta who worked with Chambers as a senior producer on this season of Venturing Forth.

"A lot of what's happening right now is that Aboriginal producers are teaming up with non-Aboriginal producers to make television. She's one of the only ones in this country that is doing it [herself]. She owns all of her own tapes. She raises all of her own money. She does everything herself. And I mean that's eventful, it really is," Koenig-Gauchier said.

Chambers said that her passion to share Aboriginal stories is the motivation behind her success.

"In terms of a career I thought I'd have to be really passionate about something that I'm going to work at my whole life. I knew that I was going to work my whole life, so I really had to make sure that I was going to be passionate about it. Otherwise, it's just a job. I don't want to just have a job. I want to live and breathe it as much as possible."

Her passion for storytelling was instilled in her by her grandfather, an hereditary chief. He would get her to help him record stories from the Elders of her community.

"I spent so much time with my grandfather and Elders and could see how important it was that our stories were told, that our perspective was told, because I certainly wasn't getting that in school," said Chambers.

Always promoting Aboriginal broadcasting in different ways, Chambers was instrumental in the creation of the Aboriginal Film and Television Production Program certificate at Capilano College in Vancouver and she has been teaching there since 2001.

"I think we have such a young population, we need to inspire those young people. We need to show them that there [are] other people who have made it and our community has incredible examples all across this country. In the last four-and-a-half years, we've profiled 65 half hours of young people, of Metis, women, youth in every region of the country in every different field. So there are successes in our communities and I think we need to celebrate those even more," Chambers said.

She's been an advocate for Aboriginal broadcasting during public hearing with the Canadian Radio-Television and Commission and Heritage Canada and is a welcome promoter of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal partnerships. In 2003, Caldwell Partners International named Chambers one of Canada's Top 40 under 40 recipients for 2002. The national program recognizes the country's young leaders. That same year she received the Global Indigenous Entrepreneur Award from the World Summit of Indigenous Entrepreneurs.

"But I feel like I'm really just starting in a lot of ways. I'm pretty goal oriented. I'm really hungry to see our stories be recognized right across this country," said Chambers.

This hunger has likely helped her succeed as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

"She can hold her own amongst the men and this is really a man's industry, it really is a man's world," said Koenig-Gauchier, who also credited Chambers for having a tough but fair management style and the ability to bring diverse people together as a team.

Chambers sits on the board of the Canadian Women in Communications group and is a past member of the Yukon Women's Advisory Council. Adding to her list of accomplishments, she co-founded the Yukon Aboriginal Business Association, is a past chair of the Yukon Indian Arts and Crafts Society, the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation and the Yukon Human Rights Commission and is a board member for Vision TV.

For Chambers, telling Aboriginal stories makes a difference in people's lives and that, she said, is her greatest accomplishment.

"I've had a young woman from Atlantic Canada recently e-mail and just said 'You know, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life and I watched one of your programs and it motivated me to take the risk.' Or a profile that's been written about the series and someone e-mailing and saying, 'Wow, you know, you took a risk.' I had another ... letter from a young girl who came from an abusive relationship and she was [saying] 'You're living the dream, you're living the dream that I want. I didn't believe it was possible to happen but you're doing it.' So I'm really inspired. That's the difference; that's the part that really turns me on."
COPYRIGHT 2005 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Tombs, Deirdre
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:May 1, 2005
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