An NFB crew filmed a group of three families, Cree hunters from Mistassini. Since times predating agriculture, this First Nations people have gone to the bush of the James Bay and Ungava Bay area to hunt. We see the building of the winter camp, the hunting and the rhythms of Cree family life.
This documentary shows how a canoe is built the old way. César Newashish, a 67-year-old Atikamekw of the Manawan Reserve north of Montreal, uses only birchbark, cedar splints, spruce roots and gum. Building a canoe solely from the materials that the forest provides may become a lost art, even among the Indigenous peoples whose traditional craft it is. The film is without commentary but text frames appear on the screen in Cree, French and English.
This short documentary offers a dizzying view of the Mohawk of Kahnawake who work in Manhattan erecting the steel frames of skyscrapers. Famed for their skill in working with steel, the Mohawks demonstrate their nimble abilities in the sky. As a counterbalance, the viewer is also allowed a peek at their quieter community life on the Kahnawake Reserve, in Quebec.
The Hudson’s Bay Company’s 300th-anniversary celebration in 1970 was no occasion for joy among the people whose lives were tied to the trading stores. Narrated by George Manuel, then president of the National Indian Brotherhood, this landmark film presents Indigenous perspectives on the company whose fur-trading empire drove colonization across vast tracts of land in central, western and northern Canada. There is a sharp contrast between the official celebrations, with Queen Elizabeth II among the guests, and what Indigenous people have to say about their lot in the Company’s operations. Released in 1972, the film was co-directed by Martin Defalco and Willie Dunn—a member of the historic Indian Film Crew, an all-Indigenous production unit established at the NFB in 1968.
Released in 1968 and often referred to as Canada’s first music video, The Ballad of Crowfoot was directed by Willie Dunn, a Mi’kmaq/Scottish folk singer and activist who was part of the historic Indian Film Crew, the first all-Indigenous production unit at the NFB. The film is a powerful look at colonial betrayals, told through a striking montage of archival images and a ballad composed by Dunn himself about the legendary 19th-century Siksika (Blackfoot) chief who negotiated Treaty 7 on behalf of the Blackfoot Confederacy. The IFC’s inaugural release, Crowfoot was the first Indigenous-directed film to be made at the NFB.
In 1977, the James Bay Festival took place over nine days in Montreal. This historic one-of-a-kind event was held in support of the James Bay Cree whose territory, resources and culture were threatened by the expansion of hydro-electric dams. First Nations, Métis and Inuit performers came from across North America to show their support in an act of Indigenous unity and solidarity few people in Montreal had ever witnessed. Rarely seen early performances by legendary Indigenous artists Gordon Tootoosis, Tom Jackson, Duke Redbird, Willie Dunn and director Alanis Obomsawin herself are interspersed with testimonies of members of the James Bay Cree. Their stories reveal first-hand experiences of the negative impacts of capitalistic expansion on Cree land.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin, A Legacy DVD box set
For five or six months at a time, Frank Ladouceur lives alone, trapping muskrat in the vast, desolate wilderness of northern Alberta. His family last visited him there some 14 years ago, and Frank’s own visits to the family home in Fort Chipewyan are few and far between. This is the story of an independent Métis man who is remarkably determined and self-sufficient, and who is ceaselessly called to return to the bush. Early experiences at Holy Angels residential school are recounted by his daughter. A Christmas play at the local school is presented in Cree. After a family Christmas meal, the fiddle and guitar are taken out and the Red River Jig begins.
This short film, crafted entirely out of NFB archival footage by First Nations filmmaker Caroline Monnet, takes us on an exhilarating journey from the Far North to the urban south, capturing the perpetual negotiation between the traditional and the modern by a people moving ever forward.Part of the Souvenir series, it's one of four films by First Nations filmmakers that address Indigenous identity and representation, reframing Canadian history through a contemporary lens.
Dancing Around the Table: Part Two charts the battle to enshrine Indigenous rights in the Canadian Constitution, capturing a key moment in Canada’s history from the perspective of Indigenous negotiators. The 1985 conference, chaired by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was the fourth and final meeting to determine an amendment to Indigenous rights as defined in the Constitution. The provincial premiers again refuse to reach an agreement with the First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders, even though the majority of Canadians supported the inclusion of Indigenous rights to self-government.Director Bulbulian captures the pride and determination of Indigenous leaders and community members who refuse to back down on this historic opportunity to enshrine their rights, and the arrogance of the First Ministers who are fighting to keep power within the federal and provincial governments. The film takes us to Indigenous communities, where ceremony and traditional practices affirm the connection to the earth and its animals, and are the source of the strength and resilience shown by the Indigenous people around the table.
Pete Standing Alone of the Kainai Nation was more at home in the White man's culture than his own as a young man. However, confronted with the realization that his children knew very little about their origins, he became determined to pass down to them the customs and traditions of his ancestors. This hour-long film is the powerful biographical study of a twenty-five-year span in Pete's life, from his early days as an oil-rig roughneck, rodeo rider and cowboy, to the present as an Indigenous man concerned with preserving his Nation's spiritual heritage in the face of an energy-oriented industrial age.
Dancing Around the Table: Part One provides a fascinating look at the crucial role Indigenous people played in shaping the Canadian Constitution. The 1984 Federal Provincial Conference of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters was a tumultuous and antagonistic process that pitted Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and the First Ministers—who refused to include Indigenous inherent rights to self-government in the Constitution—against First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, who would not back down from this historic opportunity to enshrine Indigenous rights.In a now infamous exchange, Kwakwaka’wakw lawyer and lead negotiator Bill Wilson states that he has two children who want to become lawyers and prime minister. When he says that they are Indigenous women, the male audience bursts into laughter, and Trudeau replies, “Tell them I’ll stick around until they’re ready.” Over 30 years later, Bill Wilson’s daughter, Jody Wilson-Raybould, became Canada’s first Indigenous minister of justice and attorney general in the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The conference was Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s last constitutional meeting before he resigned and the process was handed over to his successor, Brian Mulroney.
Ages 14 to 17
Indigenous Studies - History/Politics
Indigenous Studies - Identity/Society
Make an anchor chart illustrating the relationships of the people in the community who provide for themselves and each other. What are the roles and responsibilities? Is this fair? In what ways do these relationships exist in other cultures, including our own? Examine how these lines of interdependence influence or reflect the values in a culture.