Trickster Was More Than Just Another TV Show

Why the premature end of the show Trickster shouldn’t have happened

Emma Mendez // Contributor
Whess Harman // Illustrator

Based on a book series by Haisla and Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson, CBC’s Trickster premiered to raving reviews in October 2020. The show was hailed as groundbreaking for its raw, authentic, contemporary Indigenous storytelling with a “supernatural” twist. After its release, the television series was quickly renewed for a second season and picked up for streaming and distribution outside of so-called Canada.

But celebrations were short-lived when the Indigenous identity of director, co-creator and co-executive producer Michelle Latimer was questioned. Latimer, who claimed to be mixed French, Métis, and Algonquin with ties to the community of Kitigan Zibi, had her relationship to Kitigan Zibi denied by the community and was revealed to have based her Indigenous identity on unfounded claims.

Like many fans of the show, I understand that Robinson’s trust was deeply violated—as was the trust of many Indigenous communities involved in the production, and Indigenous peoples to Turtle Island overall.

As someone who is mixed Indigenous (to so-called Mexico), hearing the news of Michelle Latimer shook me up quite a bit. Not only because it sent me on a downward spiral of feeling like I was an imposter for being mixed, displaced, and de-tribialized, but also because the future of one of my favourite shows hung by a thread. Once January came around, and news of the show’s cancellation started to flood social media, I was absolutely heartbroken. Perhaps some people don’t understand why the show’s cancellation is such a big deal. At the end of the day, it’s just a TV show, right? Wrong. It’s so much more than that. 

Seeing Indigenous stories honoured beyond so-called “relics of the past” spoke to me on a deep level. Even if these weren’t my stories, it was life-changing to see other Indigenous narratives shown so prominently and in such a real way. I truly don’t have words to describe it. All I can say is that it gave me hope.

Like many fans of the show, I understand that Robinson’s trust was deeply violated—as was the trust of many Indigenous communities involved in the production, and Indigenous peoples to Turtle Island overall. However, when Latimer resigned, others who were part of Trickster, such as the cast and crew, were willing to continue with the project. According to main cast member Crystle Lightning, the show’s cancellation was not a cut and dry decision like many initially thought. On her Instagram, Lightning stated, “the CBC article announcing that there will be no season two made it seem like we all talked and mutually came up with the conclusion that they should cancel. Not true. It’s only fair you all should know.” Since the show’s cancellation, petitions have circulated online in an effort to save the show. But will it be enough? Or is cancelling Trickster the responsible thing to do? While maybe some people agree with the decision, I believe that Trickster should not have been cancelled. 

believe Trickster ignited the fire of possibility and I don’t think we’ll ever let it be extinguished again. I have hope that we won’t let the system win the next time this happens (and unfortunately, there will be a next time).

The show’s cancellation was deeply devastating for everyone involved, for Indigenous peoples globally, and especially to the Indigenous peoples living in so-called Canada and Turtle Island. The cancellation took away Indigenous representation that was authentic, killed a truly powerful project that could have completely changed the industry and culture on a deep level, and punished the Indigenous cast, crew, as well as the Indigenous audience. 

With so much actual Indigenous talent out there, why was no one else brought on in place of Latimer? Or if it was an issue of trust with CBC, why not attempt to find another network or platform? 

Cancelling it because of Latmier not only lets whiteness dictate the fate of the show and everything it meant, but it also gives power to whiteness—to the cis-hetero, capitalist, patriarchal, colonial system that for centuries has done everything it can to suppress stories like Trickster. So in the end, who really won? 

I still have hope that this is not the end. I believe Trickster ignited the fire of possibility and I don’t think we’ll ever let it be extinguished again. I have hope that we won’t let the system win the next time this happens (and unfortunately, there will be a next time). I have hope that next time we’ll fight for Indigenous stories.

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