Documenting powwows through film, photos helps Saulteaux man reconnect with culture

A Saulteaux man has started a family business based on film, photography and documenting the powwow experiences of First Nations people in Saskatchewan.

Jeromy Desjarlais, from Muskowekwan First Nation, about 110 kilometres east of Regina, founded No Budget Films in 2021. 

He worked at the powwow in his home community this past weekend and said while it’s a business, he does his work to give back to his culture, too.

“When I was a little kid, I used to go to powwows with my grandmother and I wanted to see the powwow again; I wanted to hear the drum and be a part of it all,” he said.

Desjarlais does his filming on the ground and from the air with a drone, and conducts interviews with participants. He also offers portrait work for free — he charges fees when framed prints are requested.

Desjarlais’s wife Michelle and their eight children make up No Budget Films, travelling Saskatchewan documenting powwows.

“I’m proud of my husband,” she said.

“He is so determined. He shoots for his goal.”

Desjarlais used to create short films and skits with his friends, and came up with the name No Budget Films in the early 2000s. 

“I love working with cameras,” he said. 

“I like learning about lighting, I love learning about editing, colour grading. I enjoy it all.”

Michelle Desjarlais and her granddaughter, and Jeromy’s other children, were all with him at the Muskowekwan powwow last weekend. (Jennifer Francis/CBC)

Desjarlais said it’s important First Nations people are the ones to telling their stories. He said he works to humanize First Nations people and their stories to other Canadians. 

“A very large portion of First Nations people have trauma and [others] don’t understand that part of it,” he said. 

“It’s really important for us to tell our own stories because the truthfulness of it and we understand ourselves more than anybody else.”

Michelle Desjarlais said the storytelling aspect is the best part of the family’s journey making content.

“It’s really exciting to show us as role models,” she said.

“Putting our foot in the film industry is something exciting for us.”

A woman in a ribbon skirt and a man in a black shirt putting up a backdrop
Jeromy Desjarlais, right, and his wife Michelle, left, set up an impromptu portrait studio. They offer free portraits of families and dancers at powwows across the province. (Jennifer Francis/CBC)

Cheryl Crowe, powwow president for the Muskowekwan First Nation, said she hired No Budget Films to promote not only the First Nation but one of its members.

“This is our first annual powwow on Muskowekwan [and we though]  they could do a really good job of promoting the nation,” she said.

“They’re doing an excellent job. I thought by hiring them we could get the word out because they travel all over the place.”

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