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On the trail of UFOs in Eeyou Istchee

BY Patrick Quinn May 22, 2020

Seekers scanning the skies for signs of life received some vindication recently when the Pentagon released three declassified videos of “unexplained aerial phenomena”. While the footage had been circulating online for years, the United States military’s admission seems to confirm the existence of unidentified flying objects – although not necessarily of alien life.

A 2017 front-page story in the New York Times revealed that US Navy fighter pilots had been tracking mysterious aircraft which defied the laws of aerodynamics. Despite lacking obvious flight surfaces or propulsion sources, they moved at hypersonic velocities with extreme manoeuvrability. 

The Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program had been secretly investigating these types of reports, including one jet’s near collision with a UFO in 2014. As the Navy provided new guidance for how to report these incidents last year, this recent release seems partially intended to encourage other pilots to come forward.   

“When you see these lights or craft dancing around in front of you, especially if you’re supposed to be this ‘nerves of steel’ pilot, what do you say?” commented Ernest Webb, co-founder of the Nation and a creator of the APTN series Indians and Aliens. “It’s been a long culture of ridicule for people who come forward. With the New York Times running that story, it’s elevated the conversation to a whole new level.”

These testimonies from multiple witnesses aboard the world’s most advanced aircraft provide some of the most compelling evidence of UFOs yet. The pilots heard expressing awe and confusion in these videos report seeing these mysterious objects over the US east coast almost daily for nine months between 2014 and 2015.

With a lifelong interest in science fiction, Webb first pitched a documentary about UFOs after hearing friends talk of seeing strange things in the sky nearly 20 years ago. While nothing came of that, APTN was receptive to the producer’s tales of paranormal phenomena up North and Indians and Aliens was born. 

“There were a lot of profound and extraordinary experiences that some of these people were having,” said Webb. “Of course, that piqued my interest. It was people I grew up with telling me these stories. I knew it wasn’t bullshit. Something was actually going on.”

In the show’s introduction, a narrator asks whether these experiences could be high latitude meteorological phenomena, geomagnetic storms, covert military operations, by-products from powerful hydro stations, or “the visitors”? Webb explores connections between Indigenous communities and supernatural events throughout the series as he talks with witnesses from across Eeyou Istchee and North America.

While the modern fascination with UFOs largely stems from multiple sightings in North American skies since the late 1940s, humanity’s search for hidden meanings in the stars dates back millennia. Countless Indigenous legends reference interactions with beings in the sky and ancient petroglyphs in Australia and America reveal creatures resembling aliens.

Several Indigenous groups believe their ancestors came from the starry cluster called the Pleiades. Some Cree believe their people arrived here from the stars as spirits before becoming human beings. These origin stories reinforce the idea that these otherworldly beings aren’t always extraterrestrial in nature. 

“It isn’t just little green men coming from a far-off galaxy but there’s also this spiritual dimension,” asserted Webb. “You get exposed to different phenomena as you go through that spiritual journey. With our animist concept as well, it’s easy to think of that rock as a living being so it’s no great leap to think of these things that may be in other dimensions.”

The spiritual and extraterrestrial intertwine in various accounts of alien encounters witnessed during vision quests and other ceremonies involving heightened perception. With greater openness to otherworldly phenomena and a more profound connection to the earth and skies, perhaps it’s no surprise there are apparently more UFO sightings among Indigenous communities (and in the North). 

“When you’re out in the bush, especially at night with no light pollution, something shiny and bright tends to stick out,” explained Webb. “It also comes from the language. The Cree word for ‘I feel someone’ could take on many different dimensions – it could be a spirit lurking about. When it’s built into the language, it’s built into the psyche as well.”

According to the oral history of Ojibwa people in central Ontario, a “clean and shining bright” stranger visited their community 500 years ago. This “Skyman” stayed with them until something resembling a shining star descended one afternoon and hovered near the ground. Skyman entered it and the star shot back to the sky and faded away. It was described as the most beautiful thing any of them had ever seen.

Lisa Jackson’s NFB animated short, The Visit, tells the true story of a Cree family’s encounter with a hovering UFO on Saskatchewan’s Ahtahkakoop Reserve one winter night in 1996. After the father had an intuition to play traditional songs, the flying saucer brightened in response.

Webb is accustomed to people approaching him with paranormal stories. Once, while shooting extra footage at an Elders’ camp, his colleague asked the group if anyone had ever seen a UFO. Six Elders later told him they had seen something. 

“The most compelling one is that somebody got to pilot a UFO,” Webb said about another story he heard second-hand. “I’d love to speak to the person who purportedly had that experience. Must have been a wild ride!”

Now that the US government has formally acknowledged the presence of UFOs, perhaps more incidents will be seriously investigated. The revelation could challenge our worldview – how would our lives change if extraterrestrials are really among us?

While there are no plans for a third season of Indians and Aliens, Webb hopes to explore more international encounters if it does happen. If the truth is out there, as the X-Files famously stated, then he is on its trail. 

“I want to believe,” said Webb. “Humanity will always be on that journey to seek the truth. For me, there’s no doubt that something is out there. It’s just a question of what and who.”

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Patrick Quinn lives in Montreal with his wife and two small children. With a passion for words and social justice, he enjoys sharing Eeyou Istchee's stories and playing music.