North of 60 Interview: Dakota House

"Distant Drumming," the fifth "North of 60" movie, finds Teevee Tenia back
as chief of the Lynx River Band and pushing for an all-Dene police force
throughout the Deh Cho. In this brief interview, Dakota House talks about
how Teevee's fervent desire for community policing affects his relationships
with Michelle Kenidi and Matthew Fowler.

PW: I know we don't have too much time, but why don't you give me a rundown on what Teevee is up to in "Distant Drumming." I know that he follows up on his promise at the end of "Another Country" by bringing Matthew Fowler to Lynx River. What happens after that?

DH: And then he has his whole insight. He's hooked up with a lot of major powers through the Territories. He's collaborating with them trying to get an exclusive Dene, aboriginal police force throughout the Territories. In that sense he butts heads a little bit with Peter, who's also running for First Minister on the show. Teevee's trying to get him on line with the push for an all-aboriginal detachment.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

PW: Peter's against that?

DH: Well, his sister Michelle is not really for it, eh? She's not too keen on the idea, so I think Teevee's using Peter more to get to Michelle. As well as bringing Matthew out and showing what kind of progressive state that he can get going on for the aboriginal people as far as coming into a sentencing circle and all that. I think bringing Matthew out here, in a sense as well, is Teevee using Matthew to get what he wants. "Look, this guy is an ex-con, he's out on the rez, he's got a job, he's doing really well, things are going good for him." And then these things start happening--Matthew's under investigation and so forth. Teevee's still backing him to the very bitter end. "There's something else that's going on. If we look a little bit further, if we dig a little bit deeper, I'm sure that we'll find another reason for Michelle blaming Matthew. There's somebody else that had to have done that..." So he's backing Matthew all the way, really trying to get everything that he has going on to work.

PW: So he's using Matthew as an example of how this community policing idea can work.

DH: Yes. I think he sort of backed up after getting framed. Now he's like, "We need all aboriginal police!"

PW: In fact, it appears from the script that Michelle questions Teevee's motives for wanting an all-Dene force. Sure, it might be a good idea, but why is Teevee pushing it so hard? Is it resentment from what happened to him in Calgary?

DH: I think it might be. He went through quite a bit when he was in the city. He was shot, and he froze under a bridge. Wait--that was Dakota! I froze under a bridge! [all laugh]

PW: Now don't tell me there weren't crew people ten feet away from you with hot coffee and blankets!

DH: Yeah, but those handcuffs get pretty cold! And my shoes--I'm sure they were remand center issue, because they were like I was wearing socks. My feet were freezing. And then in the trunk of the car with the exhaust....

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PW: So you really suffered for that last movie!

DH: I did! And won Best Actor for it, too. Was it acting? [laughs]

[Note: That was at the 2003 Alberta Film and Television Awards]

PW: I assume that this one has been a little easier physically?

DH: For sure. But definitely, the last show left a bitter taste in Teevee's mouth. So now he's come back to the community, as well as being chief and hooking up with surrounding communities and getting more of a superpower where we've got the votes, and whoever's against us, they're just not looking to the future.

PW: The votes for bringing community policing to the area?

DH: Yeah. That's why he's butting heads with Peter. He's saying, "Listen, we've got the votes here, this is what's going on. If you want to be First Minister now, we need someone we can count on all the way." He's telling Peter that, so it's really butting heads there. And Peter's looking at Teevee going, "You know, I don't think you've got that kind of power." And Teevee's sitting back going, "Well, I talk to everybody in the north. You don't know what I'm doing."

PW: So if Peter supports community policing, Teevee and his colleagues in other towns will support Peter's run for become First Minister of the Northwest Territories?

DH: That's right.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

PW: But isn't that something that Lynx River could implement on its own? Does it have to be regional?

DH: Definitely. It can't just be one community saying, "We want an entire Dene police service." It's got to be every community in the north. And then once you've got everybody, then the government can't sweep it under a rug and say, "Well, we'll talk about that later." They'd have to address it now. So that's where he's sitting right now. I think the way that Teevee is approaching this issue is he does have the power behind him. Like that one scene where he tells Peter directly to his face, "We need someone we can count on, and if you want to be First Minister, you'll follow our lead."

PW: Although Teevee has gotten support for the idea in other towns, he still has problems with it in his own backyard.

DH: Yeah, with Michelle--who is supposed to, in Teevee's mind as well as Peter's mind, head the whole entire thing. But once she starts saying, "Well, I'm not sure," then Teevee is trying other tactics. He's trying to work around her. Even if she says no, he's still got it covered.

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Text and photos (c) 2003 Patricia F. Winter.

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