When 16-year-old Jean-Luc Battuz met Lonnie and Theresa Selam's family on the Yakima Reservation in Washington State, he immediately felt he was where he belonged. Over a decade later they would adopt him as their son, and he would move to British Columbia in order to live near them. Though he is white and European, Jean-Luc's affinity with the spiritual values of North American Native cultures drew him into a relationship with the Selam family. French Man, Native Son recounts the unique exchange between Jean-Luc, now 28, and his adoptive parents. He will always retain his original heritage, even while actively participating in the life, responsibilities, and traditions of the family who have welcomed him into their lives.
Released in 1969, These Are My People… was the first NFB film made entirely by an Indigenous crew. It was co-directed by Roy Daniels, Willie Dunn, Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell and Barbara Wilson—members of the Indian Film Crew (IFC), an all-Indigenous unit established in 1968 as part of Challenge for Change, a broader organizational initiative to use media to effect social change. One of the first Canadian documentaries to foreground an Indigenous perspective on the history of Indigenous–settler relations, it features Standing Arrow and Tom Porter, from the Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) community of Akwesasne, who discuss longhouse religion, culture, government and the impacts of settler arrival on their way of life.
This short documentary by Colin Low is an invitation to a gathering of the Káínaa of Alberta - as the Sun Dance is captured on film for the first time. The film shows how the theme of the circle reflects the bands' connection to wildlife and also addresses the predicament of the young generation, those who have relinquished their ties with their own culture but have not yet found a firm place in a changing world.
This short documentary studies life in the village of Kangirsujuaq, Nunavik. In this community on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, children’s laughter fills the streets while the old people ponder the passage of time. They are nomads of the wide-open spaces who are trying to get used to the strange feeling of staying put. While the teenagers lap up Southern culture and play golf on the tundra to kill time, the Elders are slowly dying, as their entire culture seems to fade away.
Elisapie Isaac, a filmmaker born in Nunavik, decides to return to her roots on this breathtaking land. To bridge the growing gap between the young and the old, she speaks to her grandfather, now deceased, and confides in him her hopes and fears. Grappling with isolation, family relationships, resource extraction, land-based knowledges, the influence of Southern culture and the ongoing impacts of colonialism on Inuit ways of life, Elisapie Isaac offers a nuanced portrait of the North.
This short film traces Pete Standing Alone's personal journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging. As a spiritual elder, teacher, and community leader of the Kainai Nation of Southern Alberta, Pete works with youth to repair the cultural and spiritual destruction wrought by residential schools. At age 81, he has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people.
This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Blacks in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss. Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments—including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate—add to the film's emotional intensity.
For thousands of years the great ocean-going canoe sustained the cultural and spiritual traditions of coastal First Nations. Yet this century has seen the virtual disappearance of these sacred vessels.
In the 1980s, Native peoples of the Northwest Coast embarked on an emotional voyage of rediscovery. Reclaiming their ancient maritime heritage, they carved majestic canoes from cedars that were living hundreds of years before Europeans arrived in the Pacific Northwest.
Crews from thirty First Nations then set out in 1993 on a remarkable journey, paddling hundreds of kilometres along ancient waterways to an historic gathering of more than three thousand people at Bella Bella, British Columbia.
Qatuwas - People Gathering Together powerfully documents this rebirth of the ocean-going canoe and celebrates the healing power of tradition and the resurgence of Northwest Coast indigenous culture.
Tracey Deer grew up on the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake with two very firm but unspoken rules drummed into her by the collective force of the community. These rules were very simple and they carried severe repercussions: 1) Do not marry a white person, 2) Do not have a child with a white person.
This feature-length documentary tells the incredible story of Ernest Dufault, a.k.a. Will James, a French-Canadian man who became one of the most legendary cowboys of the American West. For over 30 years, as he went from cattle rustler to ex-convict, he managed to keep his secret. And when he took up the pen, he became a Hollywood legend. Watch this compelling exploration of the powerful attraction the West still holds for young adventurers.
In the last forty years, Canada has seen a major population shift of Indigenous peoples to the urban centres like Toronto which has become home to the largest urban Indigenous population in the country (an estimated 65,000).
Today's urban Indigenous peoples (both those with a direct connection to land-based reservation life, and those who have always lived in cities) are developing an urban Indigenous culture. They are discovering ways to integrate important expressions of traditional culture into city life, including the tradition of the Elder: a person of great wisdom who dispenses advice, settles disputes, and acts as a model and arbitrator of acceptable behaviour.
Meet Vern Harper, Urban Elder, who walks the "Red Road" in a fast-paced, urban landscape. The camera follows Vern as he leads a sweat lodge purification ceremony, watches his 11-year-old daughter Cody at a classical ballet rehearsal, conducts a private healing ceremony, participates in a political march of 150,000 people, and counsels Indigenous prisoners at Warkworth Federal Prison.
In his own voice, Vern Harper tells the Urban Elder story of how he reaches into the past for his people's traditions, blending those old ways into the present so that the future can be a time of personal growth and spiritual strength.
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.
Follow the Eagle is a short film that reminds us of the importance of our elders, especially in the inner city. It focuses on the Elders-in-Training project, created to help next-generation Elders take on their role. Slo-Pitch introduces us to Brian Arrance, an HIV-positive Cree man. Brian introduces us to the Downtown Eastside Slo-Pitch League, which provides family-oriented recreation in the heart of the city and shares how he's found fun and support in the League. These two short documentaries were produced as part of program aimed at providing Indigenous people with the opportunity, and skills, to tell their stories.