Bio & Resume
Current Cover Letter
James M. Fortier (Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation – Ontario)
Writer/Producer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor/Dedicated Historian/Visual Storyteller
Hello, Boozhoo! By way of introduction, my name is James M. Fortier. I go by “James,” and I am a member of the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation (previously called The Ojibways of the Pic River), located east of Thunder Bay, Ontario on Lake Superior’s Northshore. I was born in Nipigon, east of Thunder Bay, raised in Mooseheart and Wheaton, IL, and have called California my home since 1983. You can read more about my journey in my short bio at the end of this cover letter. I know your time is valuable so let me get straight to the point: I am seeking new career opportunities in Canada as a Canadian citizen after 59 years in the United States. Here are my objectives and goals.
Goals & Objectives:
I hope to relocate back to Canada within the coming year and I am seeking new connections and career opportunities preferably in British Columbia and ideally in the Okanagan Valley. Among my many accomplishments and awards, I am a three-time regional Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker focusing on Canadian First Nation and Native American histories, contemporary issues, and stories. My corporate video experience for the past 36 years has included productions for top Silicon Valley clients from Apple to Yahoo among many others. I have also taught Native youth video production workshops in the US and Canada. For more details see my bio below and my complete resume.
My interest in, and 30-plus year research of my own family’s deep roots in Canada which reaches back to 1663 on the Forestier/Fortier branch, 1668 on the Bigaouette branch, and 1815 on my Finlayson Scottish/Cree/Ojibway branch via the Hudson’s Bay Company, and of course, my Anishinaabe branch predates all that by thousands of years. My “research” journey led me to new and ongoing interests in Canadian history, the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trade era, and my roots and contemporary connections to First Nation and Métis communities from Ontario to British Columbia. My long-term goal is to combine my skills and experience over the past 36 years working in visual media production and storytelling with my experience and interests in Canadian history, and genealogy (family histories) more broadly, the HBC era and post-colonization impacts on First Nation and Métis people, and specifically the contemporary stories, frequently rooted in the past, of First Nation and Métis communities in a new setting. My ideal eventual career shift brings my skills and experience to a state-of-the-art cultural center or “living museum,” working for a progressive First Nation or affiliated organization in any related role that furthers this goal.
James is an enrolled member of the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation (formerly known as Ojibways of Pic River First Nation), located in Ontario, Canada. Born in Nipigon, Ontario and raised in the Chicago area, first at Mooseheart, and then in Wheaton, James set out for California at the ripe age of 20 to complete film school at San Francisco State University and received his B.A. in Broadcast Television Arts with an emphasis on screenwriting and video production. His first documentary, Alcatraz Is Not an Island, won best documentary feature at the 1999 American Indian Film Festival and later screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, premiering nationally on PBS and APTN in Canada in the early 2000’s. For 35 years James has been a Director of Photography, live event Camera Operator, Gaffer and Grip on thousands of productions for Fortune 500 Companies, broadcast and cable television, PBS, and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Canada. James has been editing since 2005. Since 1995, his documentaries have focused on Native American, First Nation and Métis issues and stories. He has won numerous awards, including three regional Emmys, and the DuPont Columbia Award for Broadcast Journalism as episode Producer/Director of Bad Sugar (of the national PBS series Unnatural Causes: Is Society Making Us Sick?).
James’ 2013 documentary, Gifts from the Elders was a passion project focusing on the interruption of traditional knowledge transference from elders to youth due to loss of lands and culture on the Pic River Ojibway Reserve. It was the vision of Western University Assistant Professor, and my cousin Chantelle Richmond, who initially brought James in as a consultant and mentor for two Cree film students in Thunder Bay, ON. James’s role expanded significantly after returning to Pic River and the additional reserve community of Batchawana the following summer to film additional interviews, scenic and verité footage. After community premiere screenings at Confederation College in Thunder Bay in 2013, and for Pic River, Batchewana and Western University, the film screened at several film festivals and aired on PBS in Minnesota. James was the DP for 3 seasons of the APTN series Tansi! Nehiyawetan (Lorreta Todd).
Other documentary works include the six-hour PBS Ojibwe series Waasa Inaabidaa: We Look in All Directions, Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire, Playing Pastime: American Indians, Softball, and Survival, Green Green Water, and two documentaries for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Pulling Together, and Gathering Together, which chronicled the tribe’s participation in the annual Northwest Tribal Canoe Journeys. In 2009, James was the Artist in Residence at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he conducted a four-week video production lab for the American Indian Studies Department course, American Indian Stereotypes in Film, and presented several of his documentaries for students and faculty.
James’ most recent national PBS documentary as Co-Writer/Producer/Director/DP/Editor, Searching for Sequoyah, in partnership with Vision Maker Media, was broadcast on nearly 90% of all PBS stations across the US in 2021 after screening at several film festivals, and premiering at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco during the COVID Pandemic. He is currently working on a new, more personal documentary: Mis-qui-Kiweninne- Red Face Man: The Hudson’s Bay Company, Nicol Finlayson and his Scottish-Oji-Cree legacy in Northern Ontario; the culmination of thirty years of research into his own Scottish/Anishinaabeg/Oji-Cree heritage. James is also writing a detailed companion book, which may be published by the Thunder Bay Historical Museum in Ontario.
I am a Canadian citizen and a Canadian Status Indian – Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation (formerly TheOjibways of the Pic River). I immigrated to the US at age 2 in 1964 and lived in Mooseheart, IL, “The Child City” orphanage about 90 minutes west of Chicago establish by The Loyal Order of the Moose in the late 1800s. My father was a member of the Beardmore Moose Lodge in Ontario before he died in 1963. I was raised in Wheaton, IL from 1968 to 1983, and I’m included in the book “Wheaton 150: Yesterday TodayTomorrow” along with John and Jim Belushi, Bob Woodward and other notable celebrities. Single, with one son, James “Jimmy” Walter, aged 30 who lives in Brooklynn, NY and 2 stepsons I raised with my former spouse, Ellen Heath Blatchly-Fortier. My son’s maternal great grandfather was the Sacramento born and prominent 1930s-1960s San Francisco artist Otis Oldfield, a WPA Coit Tower muralist and friend of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Jimmy’s maternal great- great-great grandfather was William Daniel Blatchly, born in England he was later the Toronto-based lithographer who created the famous 1885 Northwest Métis Rebellion color lithographs for the “War News” and other Toronto publications. Jimmy is a digital media designer today. Although not a musician, I’m a huge music lover, live and recorded, who owns a massive vinyl record collection and operated a used record store on eBay for over a decade, and now a used record “store” out of my garage as a passionate hobby and for a little pocket money. I am a dedicated family historian and amateur genealogist who loves museums of every stripe and marvels at the stories behind old photos and is fascinated with the relics of bygone eras.
My Forestier/Fortier branch is considered one of the first 1000 families to permanently settle in Quebec in 1663. My maternal Bigaouette branch can be traced to an Abenaki woman whose name was later adopted by her former New England British Colonist and “adopted” son Claude Thomas dit Bigaouette after he was taken captive by French and Abenaki Indians from what today is Dover, New Hampshire in 1668. My Scottish/Cree/Ojibway branch dates to Nicol Finlayson (1794-1877), who began his career with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1815 and his first Cree country wife Nancy Kanakashiwaite (James Bay/Albany River Cree), and through their son John Finlayson (1828-1898) and his Ojibway wife Angelique Ikwens Shebagijig. She was the granddaughter of the HBC appointed Ft. William Chief John Ininuway via his son the Ft. William band headman Michel Shibakijick. Both men signed the 1850 Robinson-Superior Treaty representing the Ft. William bands along with their cousin, hereditary Chief Joseph Peau du Chat (King Fisher clan).