The People of the Kattawapiskak River

Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River exposes the housing crisis faced by 1,700 Cree in Northern Ontario, a situation that led Attawapiskat’s band chief, Theresa Spence, to ask the Canadian Red Cross for help. With the Idle No More movement making front page headlines, this film provides background and context for one aspect of the growing crisis.

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Comments

  • hampelo

    “Although the housing plight of the First Nation people is a real and tragic issue, this film does little or nothing to assist in solving the problem. It is an "oh, woe is me, please feel sorry for me" treatise offering vague and prejudicial statements about the responsibility for the housing problem and indicating we, the Canadian public, should be concerned that not enough money is being provided to resolve the problem. For example, Chief Spence says that the Canadian people need to know that the Canadian Government is not living up to their treaty agreements. We hear this repeatedly from first nations and it is patently not true. We do not need to know THAT the government is not meeting treaty agreements; we need to know HOW they are not meeting treaty agreements. The reluctance of first nations, in this case Chief Spence, to provide details on HOW they are not living up to their treaty agreements seems intentional and intended to make us pity them without providing any facts. Another example was the discussion about the number of houses they receive each year. Once again, the Canadian public does not need to know this! What we need to know is how much money is being provided for housing, how many houses it will buy, how many houses are needed and how much more money is required. WHAT IS THE SHORTFALL not please feel sorry for me because we don't have adequate housing based on no facts and with no assurance that the housing money allotted is actually spent on housing. Logically it would seem that if this was an honest issue of not getting enough money for housing, the financial facts would be attached to every discussion. We, the Canadian public, are left to assume that the reason no financial facts are presented is because it would expose that money intended for housing was not being spent on housing. Hopefully, this is not the case. A third example is the housing condition. "Please feel sorry for us because we live in such deplorable housing". They show an not very old ATCO-like house in correctly stated, deplorable, condition. How did this happen. Absolutely no indication other than a vague reference to the cold and how crappy the house was built. Unfortunately, it is obvious from what can be seen that the walls have been ripped off inside the building for some reason, some of the flooring has been removed, and that the building has not been maintained at all. There is a very similar building at our local school that is used for portable classrooms, is 25 years old and is pristine. On the other hand, no one has ripped off any of the walls. Another reviewer commented that we need to know both sides of the story. I contend that this film shows a vague and seemingly intentionally prejudicial view of one side of the story only. The first nation people need to get some facts in front of the Canadian public and when they are in the position to do this without exposing themselves to ridicule about how money is spent, I am sure that I and most of the Canadian public will join them in demanding that our government provide them with adequate housing. Include with that, education and health care. ” — hampelo, 17 Jul 2014

  • SuzyQ

    “I watched this film yesterday, and it made me very angry. Why was no one in the film held accountable for their own situation. If your roof starts to leak, you fix it. No one I know would have a child (or several) if they did not have a safe place to raise them. If the community of less than 2000 was able to raise $100, 000 playing bingo, there is obviously enough money to maintain and repair housing, put shower curtains in the shower stalls and toilet seats on toilets. Why do these people not look to themselves for solutions first, if you cannot take care of yourself, why should you expect anyone else to.” — SuzyQ, 19 Jan 2014

  • Gookkum

    “Very good, where can I purchase it?” — Gookkum, 12 Apr 2013

  • asmodias

    “This is a beautiful documentary. Thank you to all those who were involved in the production of this film. I'm really glad I was able to get a direct perspective from the people who live in Attawapiskat, instead of the propaganda I see all over the news. I hope the government stays true to it's functions and work together with the people of the Kattawapiskat River.” — asmodias, 10 Apr 2013

  • shadowpeople

    “Didn't you watch the entire video where hockey area and Zamboni is explained? She raised $100,000 from fund raising.. FUND RAISING you racist bigot. All records of this and area are shown online. The hockey area is the difference between life and death for those kids...would you rather the suicide rate go up even higher?? ” — shadowpeople, 20 Jan 2013

  • billnama

    “Thank you Alanis. The lack of housing in FN communities is the root of the problem. The Federal government has no option but to invest billions of dollars to address the backlog across Canada. Instead of increasing the funding they have frozen and at times cut it. If there is no housing the people will leave the territory. When people leave then the Federal government doesn't have to build roads, schools, clinics, hospitals or infrastructure. Most Aboriginal people in the north do not have the means to provide for their own housing through economic activity since they have been disposed of their land and resources through land theft treaties and the Federal government desire for these communities to fail and disperse its people. In Canada there are two types of municipalities. There are the municipalities under provincial jurisdiction and there are municipalities called reserves under Federal jurisdiction. The Provincial governments go to great lengths to support their municipalities. On the other hand the Federal government goes to great length to make theirs disappear. The Federal Government do not think the northern reserves are economically viable despite Federal plans to promote the 650 billion dollar natural resources development plan. They should learn from Quebec Plan Nord where Aboriginal people were considered partners. ” — billnama, 20 Jan 2013

  • marathon1968

    “why do they have a beautiful community arena and people living in tents and sheds. ” — marathon1968, 19 Jan 2013

  • marathon1968

    “great film so what did chief spence and the band council do with 104 million ( plus 9 million a year from debeers ?). ” — marathon1968, 19 Jan 2013

  • marathon1968

    “great film what did chief spence and the band council do with 104 million dollars and 9 plus million a year from debeers ” — marathon1968, 19 Jan 2013

  • Graylix

    “Here is a documentary that will affect your eyes, first, by opening them and then by filling them with tears. Thank you Alanis, for sharing this with the world, so all may see the story from the other side. You did good! ” — Graylix, 18 Jan 2013

  • Keeshie

    “Beautiful film!!!!!!!!!! ” — Keeshie, 18 Jan 2013

  • mellowfellow

    “To the Alanis, many thanks for the work presented. To the first nations of Kattawapiskak river, thank you for opening up and talking about your conditions, this is fundamental to solve the situation of the reserve. I am Acadian, my ancestors lived in Acadia, now nova-scotia, 375 years ago, I have books that trace all of my lineage to france, 12th generation living on the land. This land was settled because of Europeen Mercantile intrests. We settled and worked hard collectively in small groups to build dikes and gain land from the sea, we had priced agricultural locations. Once the dikes were built we were forced of our Lands by the crown of England, whom whe had sworn alligeance to after utrect and the British conquest of Acadia. We lived in peace with our Native neighboors, thanks to them we survived the harsh reality of Canada. We Acadian fought side by side with the Mikmak in guerilla wars in the war of conquest that saw New France transformed into provinces. The acadians have suffered and rebuilt their lives in settlements along the atlantic coast, not our original lands, the best agricultural lands. The horror of displacement and family destruction is know by the Acadian people. There was not compensation to the Acadians, only an official excuse from the Crown. Now If I understand correctly that the numbered treaties the chiefs effectively surrender the Lands of the First Nations to the Crown through the HBC (Capitalists Brits in London) to form the BNAAC AKA Canada in 1867. I must realy say most of the people of the whole world are in a simple form slaves to the Big boys of modern finance capital. So WE ALL NEED TO WORK FOR EACH OTHER, The gov are mostly puppets, and they fallow the laws and who wrote the laws, hmm. Perhaps the capitalist lawyers and Banksters do not want an alliance of all peoples, creeds and colors to successfully challenge the status-quo. What I would like to know is who likes the Status-quo right now, Islamist Salafists funded by Saudis and Quatar attacking Syrians, Malians, Algerians, just trying hard to start WW3 and our media plays into this disinformation. Revolt, Resist, Reclaim.” — mellowfellow, 18 Jan 2013

  • tineke

    “amazing story telling. thank you Alanis for this. NFB: is there a way that it can continue to be made available to all canadians to watch for free? if not the full film than perhaps a shorter version? its such an important tool for educating, creating empathy and the desire in many to support our aboriginal brothers and sisters in becoming self sufficient.” — tineke, 18 Jan 2013

  • seeing

    “Yes, it was very sad to see the conditions of these homes and how fast they deteriorated. Yearly inspection and repair is needed to maintain a home. This would also be more environmentally responsible instead of delayed or no repairs so that the home becomes unliveable and then needs complete replacing. Investment in a community wood cutting machine would also ensure that homes kitchen cupboards, wallboards and furnishings would not be used to heat homes during frigid temperatures when going outside is unbearable. Additionally stock piles of wood could be cut during the warmer months and then avaiable to the community during the winters. Also a program where building materials were available such as shingles, insulation, paint etc so that tenants could make their own home repairs as needed in a timely fashion before serious home damage is done instead of waiting for this to occur through the reserve system. The wiring in one of the homes had already started a ceiling fire within a bedroom so this makes the home even more dangerous for the family to be living in especially with a entertainment unit with the tv and componets in the living room and a smaller tv with x-box in the child's bedroom. The home owner said the wiring in the ceiling of the bedroom that caused the fire still needed to be fixed but all the wiring in this home should be checked out so an additional fire does not occur and the family is safe. I think that it was commendable that money was raised for use with the sports facility and that also DeBeers donated their work trailers to the reserve. These donations have really helped the people of the community who are in such need. The Healing Center is a beautifully designed and crafted building and illustrates the sharp contrast to the homes these people are living in. ” — seeing, 18 Jan 2013

  • raverrall@sympatico.ca

    “Bravo to the NFB for making this film available at a time when the people of Canada deserve to know all sides of the story. And Bravo to Alanis Obomsawin, a magnificent filmmaker, who, as always, is commited to find the truth.” — raverrall@sympatico.ca, 18 Jan 2013

  • grandchiefronderrickson

    “its a pity ,that the white mans greed and uncaring attitude can allow this to happen,forgiveness is a essential part of natives beliefs ,but how do you forgive people who continue to do this to our people,grand chief ron derrickson” — grandchiefronderrickson, 17 Jan 2013

  • LearningMore

    “Thank you for making this film Alanis, and for sharing NFB! It made me feel a lot of empathy for the traditional people of the community, but wonder how they see the disparity between their living situation, and that of their chief. It also made me feel that colonial processes and governance have little capacity to solve this communities problems. The solutions lie within the community itself.” — LearningMore, 16 Jan 2013

  • Maiyn

    “These are the sorts of stories and people that need to be portrayed in the media. It would do a lot to combat the ignorance and racism that persist so ruthlessly in our so called "equal" society. Thank you so much for making this powerful film, and to those reading... please share far and wide. This needs to be seen by as many people as possible.” — Maiyn, 15 Jan 2013

  • ogimagahbow

    “They should be compensated for their resources directly. Taxes and profit sharing from the surrounding natural resources should be given directly to them. The foriegn mining company should be buying houses for them and give them much more!” — ogimagahbow, 15 Jan 2013

  • ogimagahbow

    “They should compensating for their resources directly. Taxes and profit sharing from the surrounding natural resources should given directly to them. The foriegn mining company should be buying houses for them and give them much more!” — ogimagahbow, 15 Jan 2013

  • holly59

    “A sensitive and honest portrayal of Attawapiskat that helps to educate us southerners who can't even begin to imagine what life in the north must be like, especially evident in the inappropriate "southern" housing that is supplied to a northern community without the resources to repair or even purchase the materials necessary to maintain such a structure. This is a disconnect that still reeks of colonialism from the 1800's. We all need to reeducate ourselves about the history of this country and wherever possible act like the civilized human beings we declare ourselves to be. ” — holly59, 14 Jan 2013

  • LearningNotLeaning

    “I am confused. So there is enough resources in the community to earn proceeds of $100,000 profit from Bingo, but no money to help their own brothers and sisters?” — LearningNotLeaning, 14 Jan 2013

  • DanielEllingsen

    “The more I learn the more I realize how complicit I am in this whole circle of not honouring the agreements that we made together as first peoples and immigrants. These agreements remain at the core of how we live in this place together. As an artist and as a citizen of this country I am reminded of my responsibility in helping my friends and neighbours where I can. I will try harder and talk more. Thank you for opening my eyes Ms Abomsawin.” — DanielEllingsen, 14 Jan 2013

  • DeafCanuck

    “I would love to watch this but like millions of other Canadians, I have a hearing loss and cannot understand most of what's being said. Any chance subtitles or closed captioning can be added? Much obliged.” — DeafCanuck, 13 Jan 2013

  • tonyb

    “Those media and those in the House of Commons who disparage Chief Spence and her community and send unnecessary outside managers instead of responding to the desperate needs should see this film. It will open their eyes to how unfair, mean and disgraceful they have been to a caring people who are struggling to make a better life for themselves and their children. ” — tonyb, 12 Jan 2013

  • denekawa

    “ I'm sure that most people are unaware of the situation in this community and the picture that the bought media is painting is quite different from the realities the First Nation people are experiencing. I have posted this on my Facebook with the hopes that even the limited number of friends I have will get to see what is happening here and spread the word, but surely there must be other more efficient ways to spread the message in this documentary to people. Harper should have acted on this travesty months ago. I guess if the diamond mine was at risk it would be a different story. ” — denekawa, 12 Jan 2013

  • tonyb

    “This is an incredibly moving account of the hardship experienced by the people of Attawapiskat and the seemingly insurmountable hurdles the leadership face to deal with them. Shame on an ignorant and biased media and elected officials who would feed vile and misleading information about that leadership from there pedestals in the House of Commons or their studios and through their reports and publications. ” — tonyb, 12 Jan 2013

  • bundocke

    “Beautifully done and not too sensationalist. Done with pride and sensitivity. will it be translated? i teach in french school and think this is a MUST see so that the next generations take better care of their own.” — bundocke, 12 Jan 2013

  • shibata@sympatico.ca

    “This should be required viewing for every person in Canada who has ever shrugged off reports of conditions on any reservation, or complained about tax free purchases for residents. ” — shibata@sympatico.ca, 11 Jan 2013

  • trish2

    “Thanks to Alanis Obomsawin we can see what is really happening in Attawapiskat. I will pass this on to everyone I know so they can have a true understanding of the situation today! Thanks Alanis!” — trish2, 11 Jan 2013

  • kruscito

    “@VeganWest - The DVD isn't ready yet. When it is, I'll post it online! :)” — kruscito, 7 Jan 2013

  • VeganWest

    “Why isn't this available on DVD now? The Hunger Strike has been going on for weeks, and Canadians want to see both sides of this story.” — VeganWest, 7 Jan 2013

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Film Credits

director
Alanis Obomsawin
writer
Alanis Obomsawin
editor
Alison Burns
camera
René Sioui Labelle
Martin Duckworth
Philippe Amiguet
Alan Poon
Adam George Makarenko
location sound
Glenn Hodgins
Brian Horrell
music composer
Normand Guilbeault
narration
Alanis Obomsawin
voice recording
Geoffrey Mitchell
Mathieu Leroux
sound editor
Don Ayer
mixer
Shelley Craig
research
Alanis Obomsawin
Katherine Kasirer
producer
Alanis Obomsawin

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