A MANITOBA filmmaker of Ojibwa heritage is set to join the Order of Canada in recognition of her contributions to Canadian film and broadcasting.
Lisa Meeches, 52, is the only Manitoban among 61 recipients, announced by Rideau Hall on Wednesday. Meeches, who was born and raised on Long Plain First Nation near Portage la Prairie, calls herself a "storyteller and a story keeper."
She joked that when Rideau Hall called, she thought the Governor General was getting in touch with her to vouch for someone else.
"I started crying, I couldn’t believe someone would think that highly of me to nominate me for such an award," she said.
Meeches has worn many hats: some may recognize her as the host of the former television series Sharing Circle, or the founder of Eagle Vision, a production company with an impressive list of credits, including Academy Award winner Capote and the popular History Channel series Ice Road Truckers. Much of her work focuses on the trauma and impact of colonialism. She hosted Taken, a television series that ran for four seasons, which investigated cases of missing and slain Indigenous women in Canada, and produced We Were Children, a 2012 documentary about residential schools.
"I thought, ‘This needs to be accepted on behalf of all of those stories, all of the hurt, all of the shoulders I’ve stood on for my entire career,’" she said. "I will accept this award for them."
From the start of her career, keeping Indigenous communities central to her work has been a priority for Meeches. After studying broadcasting in North Dakota, she returned to Manitoba to work with Winnipeg-based Native Media Network, and later as a news reporter for Craig Broadcasting Systems in Brandon and Alberta, where she created a team that would connect the newsroom to surrounding First Nations communities.
Today, she takes pride in mentoring Indigenous youth, whom she calls the "eaglettes," through Eagle Vision.
"We have something quite magical going on, and it allows us the opportunity to train Indigenous youth and take risks other companies wouldn’t be able to take with Indigenous youth," she said. "I’m a mother… I know how to do this. It’s natural for me — I’m an auntie to over 100 adopted nieces and nephews from the program."
She received the Order of Manitoba in 2017, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communication in 2007 and the University of Manitoba’s Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership Award in 2009.
Meeches continues to run Eagle Vision and serves as the executive director of Manito Ahbee Festival. She took on a new challenge in July — she returned home, to a piece of land eight kilometres from Long Plain First Nation, to a property she’s named "Medicine Hat First Nation" after her daughter. The "real test," she said, has been "earning" her place in the local community.
"This is my dream come true in my life, to come back here and rest my brain and my spirit so I can finish the last part of my journey here on Earth," she said. "I’m just now scratching the surface of how explosive my career had become."
More than 7,000 Canadians have received the Order of Canada since its inception in 1967. This year’s recipients will be honoured at a ceremony at an undetermined date.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.