This early work from Pierre Perrault, made in collaboration with René Bonnière, chronicles summer activities in the Innu communities of Unamenshipu (La Romaine) and Pakuashipi. Shot by noted cinematographer Michel Thomas-d’Hoste, it documents the construction of a traditional canoe, fishing along the Coucouchou River, a procession marking the Christian feast of the Assumption, and the departure of children for residential schools—an event presented here in an uncritical light. Perrault’s narration, delivered by an anonymous male voice, underscores the film’s outsider gaze on its Indigenous subjects. The film is from Au Pays de Neufve-France (1960), a series produced by Crawley Films, an important early Canadian producer of documentary films.
Alexis Joveneau, a Catholic priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, worked in the Innu community of Unamenshipu (La Romaine) between 1960 and 1985, and appears in five NFB productions: Attiuk (1960), Ka Ke Ki Ku (1960), Le goût de la farine (1977), Le pays de la terre sans arbre ou le Mouchouânipi (1980) and La grande allure II (1985). Joveneau is seen in several scenes of Ka Ke Ki Ku, teaching Innu children and providing Innu-aimun/French translation.
In November 2017, during Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a number of Innu women from Unamenshipu testified that they had been sexually and physically abused by Joveneau, who died in 1992. Many other women subsequently came forward with similar allegations, and on March 29, 2018, a request for a class action was filed in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of the women against the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The class action was authorized on November 16, 2021. The Oblates named in the suit include Alexis Joveneau, Omer Provencher, Edmond Brouillard, Raynald Couture and Édouard Meilleur.”
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 film portrays the experiences of Rhonda Gordon and her daughter, Angela, when a simple bus ride changes their lives in an unforeseeable way. When they are harassed by three boys, Rhonda finds the courage to take a unique and powerful stance against ignorance and prejudice. What ensues is a dramatic story of racism and empowerment.
Fifteen-year-old Buckley (Buckley Petawabano) attends residential school, where he longs for his home and dreams of fishing and hunting. Yet when he returns to the reserve for the summer he feels like a stranger, unable to speak his Cree language or live off the land like his father and brothers. Johnny (Johnny Yesno), an Indigenous caretaker at the school, takes Buckley under his wing, introducing him to Indigenous history, culture, and knowledge. After finding Buckley’s frozen body in the snow, Johnny pieces together the events of the boy’s short life and tragic death, which left him unable to find a place for himself between the white and Indigenous worlds.Featuring the soulful music of Willie Dunn, Cold Journey's narrative is similar to the true story of Charlie Wenjack, a young Anishinaabe boy who froze to death running away from residential school in 1966. The film was made with members of the Indian Film Crew and features Chief Dan George.
In a pounding critique of Canada's colonial history, this short film draws parallels between the annihilation of the bison in the 1890s and the devastation inflicted on the Indigenous population by the residential school system.This film is part of Souvenir, a series of four films addressing Indigenous identity and representation by reworking material in the NFB's archives.
This installment of the Eye Witness series focuses on Indigenous children at Fort Simpson; a miniature naval battle between radio-operated vessels attended by the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets in Montreal; a drive-in theatre near Ottawa used to provide church services to passing motorists; and how Toronto's subway system is starting to take shape.
This short film from 1958 compiles 3 short reportages on different ways kids are schooled in remote areas. To School by Boat follows children of isolated fishing hamlets along a stretch of British Columbia coastline as they travel to school by sea-going bus. In Classroom on Rails, we hop along a railway coach that brings school to children in a logging area of northern Ontario. Northern Schooldays introduces us to First Nations children educated in a residential school in Moose Factory.
Please note that this film was produced in 1958 and reflects the attitudes and thinking of its era. To modern audiences, parts of the film may be perceived as offensive, but it must be seen as a cultural product of the era in which it was produced. The perspectives of Canadians (and the NFB) have evolved and become more conscious of Indigenous rights, realities and points of view since the making of the film. Through its rich collection of Indigenous-made films, available at Indigenous Cinema, the NFB continues to strive to challenge stereotypes about Indigenous people and accurately depict the diverse experiences of Indigenous communities.
This short documentary follows Gabe Etchinelle as builds a mooseskin boat as a tribute to an earlier way of life, where the Shotah Dene people would use a mooseskin boats and transport their families and cargo down mountain rivers to trading settlements throughout the Northwest Territories.
On an island the road ends where it begins, at the wharf. The wharf is the link to the rest of the world, until winter cuts it off. But the islanders know the winter sea and its movements. They judge the ice by its colours, avoiding the open channels, fighting through the slushy fragil ice, catching their footing on the chunk ice, and running all-out across the solid ice to the North Shore.
The building of a goélette, the wooden coastal freighter of the St. Lawrence River. Although ships of steel may replace these sturdy wooden vessels, the Jean Richard, shown in construction in this film, is still one ship built with all the old pride in craftsmanship.
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.
In the Kitcisakik community, the Algonquin language is dying out, just four generations after the federal government's assimilation policy came into effect.
Since 2004, Wapikoni Mobile has been giving Indigenous youth the opportunity to speak out using video and music.