TikTok posts deliver First Nations history

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Ira Timothy of Delaware Nation has been chosen to participate in the 2023 TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators. The online program offers networking opportunities and guidance from some of TikTok’s leading Indigenous voices to expand their storytelling abilities on social media. His account is @thatnativeguy79.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

During the pandemic lockdown, local resident Ira Timothy started a TikTok account as a way to pass the time.
Today, @thatnativeguy79 has amassed more than 166,000 followers, providing a fresh and entertaining look at Indigenous history and culture in Canada.

Timothy’s informative – and often comical – online videos are getting noticed. His creativity garnered the attention of TikTok Canada and he was recently chosen to take part in the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, presented by the National Screen Institute.

The popularity of @thatnativeguy79 surprised Timothy. Originally, the 44-year-old began posting about day-to-day life, but in June 2020 he started creating content in honour of Indigenous History Month.

“I was just trying to stay sane,” Timothy said, explaining he was “shocked” to see his Indigenous history posts gain traction. “It made me aware that there are many people out there who are not aware of our teachings and culture.”

Now, 125 historical videos later, @thatnativeguy79 is playing an important role in eliminating barriers.

“If you can make them smile, make them laugh, the lessons will stick,” Timothy said.

A member of the Eelunaapeewi Lahkeewiit Delaware Nation at Moriaviantown near Bothwell, Timothy uses cosplay, so-called Dad jokes, voiceovers, slapstick comedy and crazy filters to pass on the oral history he was taught to create.

“I hold tight to that oral history,” Timothy said. “That’s the way I was brought up.

“I’m very proud when people say they learned something from the videos,” he added. “It’s setting the record straight and helping to change minds through education.”

Timothy, is of Lenape and Dene origin. He attended elementary and high school in Ridgetown and went on to London for post-secondary education.

Timothy graduated with honours from the Fanshawe College broadcasting program, holds a B.A. in film studies from Western University, as well as a public relations degree.

He currently works as the communications co-ordinator for the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians.

While proud of his heritage, Timothy stresses that he does not speak for all First Nations people.

“My voice is not the end all and be all,” he said. “What I was taught does not necessarily apply to everyone.”

But Timothy said he’s always happy to share and he’s pleased he was chosen by TikTok Canada to take part in the accelerator effort.

The social media giant has provided resources to some 40 Indigenous creators, assisting them with content creation and technology workshops in the 2023 #Indigenous TikTok Visionary Voices.

“I’m continually learning, and through the workshops I’ve learned things that I never thought of before,” he said. “I love that TikTok wants to make sure the stories of Indigenous people are told.”

@thatnativeguy79 can also be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (X).

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