The NFB and its community partner, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, presented a Virtual Classroom with acclaimed documentary filmmaker and social activist Alanis Obomsawin (keynote speaker) and community activists Gabrielle Fayant and Brock Lewis. Moderated by CBC journalist and author Waubgeshig Rice, the live-streamed discussion from the OCDSB’s Aboriginal Learning Center focused on the topic of social justice in Indigenous communities and the positive shifts brought about by Indigenous youth.
Alanis Obomsawin, Gabrielle Fayant and Brock Lewis Discussion moderated by Waubgeshig Rice.
The event was live-streamed from the Manido Onji Lodge, Place of Spirit, the Aboriginal Learning Center housed at Rideau High School in Ottawa. Designed in consultation with the students at Rideau, youth workers at Wabano, and several elders from various Aboriginal communities, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Aboriginal Learning Center provides a culturally safe and relevant space for FNMI educational, youth and community programming.
Our panellists came together to talk about the hot-button social issues that young people in Indigenous communities are facing, with an emphasis on the various ways in which these youth are working to overcome these challenges and thrive. This Virtual Classroom event was especially timely after the June 2015 Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) process called for every Canadian province and territory to create age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties and Aboriginal people’s contributions to Canada. Esteemed NFB documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, who has charted the struggles and progress of First Nations peoples in over 40 films since her directorial debut in 1967, brought a fascinating long-term perspective to the table. This virtual forum was designed for Grade 9+ students of Aboriginal Studies, History and Citizenship Education, and Social Studies, in particular.
Waubgeshig Rice is a celebrated author and CBC video journalist from the Wasauksing First Nation. He developed a strong passion for storytelling as a child while learning about being Anishinaabe.. Some of the stories he wrote as a teenager eventually became Midnight Sweatlodge, his first collection of fiction published by Theytus Books in 2011. His debut novel, Legacy, was also published by Theytus in the summer of 2014. In 2014, he received the Anishinabek Nation’s Debwewin Citation for Excellence in First Nation Storytelling.
Alanis Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation and one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers. For more than four decades, she has directed NFB documentaries that chronicle the lives and concerns of First Nations people, exploring issues of importance to all. Ms. Obomsawin’s latest film is the 2014 NFB documentary Trick or Treaty?, which follows the journey of Indigenous people as they seek to establish a dialogue with the Canadian government.
Gabrielle is the co-founder of the youth-led organization Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) and Program Manager of an economic youth program called ReachUp! North. She has worked for several National Aboriginal Organizations, such as the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and has experience on various advisory committees and councils, including the Canadian Commission of UNESCO’s Youth Advisory Group.
Brock Lewis is an Indigenous youth from the Ojibwe Nation. He was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and is a member of Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. In early 2013, Brock enrolled in the Aboriginal Cultural Ambassador training program in Ottawa, which led to opportunities to participate in cultural dance performances and give talks about his culture. Brock also performs at Indigenous powwows across North America as a singer for a First Nations drum group.
To prepare for the virtual classroom, screen Alanis Obomsawin’s NFB documentaries Trick or Treaty? (2014) and Hi-Ho Mistahey! (2013) in class. Students will learn about Canadian Indigenous leaders’ quest for justice and dialogue with government representatives as well as the fight for equal access to education for First Nations children. Using the teaching materials created by educators Brad Baker and Stephanie Maki, teachers can delve deeper into these topics by completing the insightful class activities suggested for each film.