Biidaaban: First Light

  • Biidaaban: First Light

Language carries the knowledge of its speakers. Indigenous North American languages are radically different from European languages and embody sets of relationships to the land, to each other, and to time itself. But as Indigenous languages face the risk of disappearing, we risk losing what they have to teach us.

Rooted in Indigenous futurism, Biidaaban: First Light asks users to think about their place in history and their role in a possible future. As they move through a highly realistic future Toronto reclaimed by nature, they hear the languages of the place originally known as Tkaronto. Through gaze-based interactions, users engage with the written text of the Wendat, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and gain insight into the complex thought systems of this land’s first peoples.

The VR environment was created using to-scale architectural models of Toronto’s Osgoode subway station and the buildings surrounding Nathan Phillips Square.

Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe) is one of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary artists working in film and VR. In Biidaaban: First Light, Lisa joins forces with 3D artist Mathew Borrett to create a future for Canada’s largest urban centre from an Indigenous female perspective.

Biidaaban: First Light was created in Toronto, on the traditional territories of the Wendat, the Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Métis and the
Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, as well as in Vancouver on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Copyright © 2015 Wayne State University Press,
with the permission of Wayne State University Press.

Skymap provided by NASA/Goddard
Space Flight Center Scientific
Visualization Studio.

© 2018 National Film Board of Canada

About the Artists

Lisa Jackson

Anishinaabe director Lisa Jackson’s award-winning fiction and documentary films have screened widely at festivals such as Berlin, Hot Docs, SXSW and London BFI. Her work has also aired on many networks in Canada and earned her a Genie Award (Canada’s Oscar®). Lisa’s upcoming projects include an IMAX film and more traditional film and TV work. See more at

Mathew Borrett

Mathew Borrett creates rich environments using digital and traditional media. His work can be seen on film and TV, and recently in virtual reality experiences as well. Mathew’s home city of Toronto often serves as the inspiration for his work.