Spirit Bay was an aboriginal family television show of 13 half-hour episodes that aired on CBC and TV Ontario from 1982 to 1986. The show focuses on the lives of townsfolk on an Ojibwe reservation town in Northern Ontario. Here, the residents have adapted to white society while retaining traditional links to the land through fishing, trapping and hunting. The show details the spiritual kinship between Spirit Bay families, nature, and modern life on the reserve from a young person's viewpoint. Being the first true aboriginal tv series, it set the stage for all other native Canadian programming thereafter (such as: The Rez, North of 60 and Moccasin Flats), and paved the way for many famous first nations, Canadian actors like:
- Graham Greene as Pete "Baba"
- Tom Jackson as Will
- Tantoo Cardinal as Rabbit's foster mother Annie
- Gary Farmer as Hack's uncle Cheemo
- Shirley Cheechoo as Mavis and Tafia's mother
- Monique Mojica as Hack's mother Gloria
- Margo Kane as the school teacher
Other less known elder actors included:
- Colleen Loucks as Aunt Lily
- Gladys Taylor as Teawash
- Ron Cook as Baba Shibagabo
- Blake Debassige as Rabbit's foster father
Noted elder aboriginal actor, George Clutesi (who played Old Bernard), appeared in two episodes. In one he helps Hack deal with the importance of an ancestral medicine bag, and in the other he teaches Tafia the value of true art.
The Stars of the Show-
One of the child stars of the show was Trevor Smith, who played Rabbit, a young teen who comes to the reserve from the city after he is adopted. (He also got later acting roles on The Rez, Cheaper By the Dozen 2 and U8TV: The Lofters. Today he is now an animal control officer and media spokesperson on City TV for the Toronto Humane Society). He was the only cast member who was not of native origin. Other child actors on the show included:
- Cynthia Debassige as Tafia
- Diane Debassige as Mavis
- Lance Migwans as Hack
- Eugene Thompson as Minnow
- Liz Haldane as Lenore
- Mark Bruder as Elton
Lesser known child characters included: Tonka (Elton's little brother) and Rose (a young teen who helps the kids in a winter bus accident by using her survival know-how). Check the episode synopsis for more details.
The haunting theme song was penned by Canadian/American music and acting legend, Buffy Ste. Marie.
The show was shot on location in MacDiarmid, Ontario on Lake Nipigon at the Rocky Bay First Nation. The modern school in Rocky Bay has been named the Spirit Bay School. As well the new community gas station has also been named Spirit Bay. A fictitious community has become reality in some forms.
Lenore out canoeing with her father Pete (Graham Greene).
Elton needs parts for his bike. Elder Teawash helps him, while Rabbit and Elton's little brother, Tonka, look on.
Rose, a child of the forest, saves the kid's broomball team after a winter bus accident leaves them stranded.
The Spirit Bay Braves broomball team pose. Rose is top row- 2nd from the left; Rabbit is top row -3rd from left; Hack is top row- far right.