This short film is an exposé on the style of fishing done by Indigenous fishermen in the Prairie provinces. The commentary is offered by a fisherman as he goes about his business. He recalls his boyhood when the men of his band freighted by canoe for the Hudson's Bay Company. He also speaks of education, of sickness and health, of family, of poverty, of the pleasures of a Saturday night dance, and he demonstrates the tricks of his own trade - when to set a net, how to handle fish, and what it all costs in money, time, equipment and skill. Commercial fishermen may learn effective measures for protecting the freshness and attractiveness of freshwater catches, while general audiences will enjoy a telling view of Indigenous life and enterprise.
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.
This short documentary from 1966 shows life in the Chipewyan community on a reserve in Northern Saskatchewan, where new ways of living don’t conflict with traditional activities. You’ll meet Moise MacIntyre, who is satisfied living along the lake with its fish and the game in the nearby woods, despite having the opportunity to leave. Free from the burden of having to succeed in the traditional sense of financial earnings, these people have created a sense of community that more than makes up for what they may otherwise lack.
This short documentary examines an innovative educational program developed by John and Gerti Murdoch to teach Cree children their language via Cree folklore, photographs, artifacts, and books that were written and printed in the community.
Made as part of the NFB’s groundbreaking Challenge for Change series, Cree Way shows that local control of the education curriculum has a place in Indigenous communities.
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
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 short documentary looks at the Indigenous Gitxsan community in central British Columbia’s Skeena River through one of its members, Ben Risdale. Watch as Ben follows the “Grease Trail” from the first snowfall, and follow along as he tends his traplines while living outdoors among the grandeur of the surrounding forest and mountains. His reward? A valuable stock of fur pelts.
The historic post of Moose Factory on James Bay is still a centre of Canada's fur trade. The camera follows Cree trapper George McLoed as he goes out from the post to visit his trap lines. Bivouacing in the open, in bitter cold, he traps mink and beaver, skillfully skinning the animals and drying the rich pelts. Back at the post, he sells his furs to the Hudson's Bay trader.
This short film from 1946 presents an outline of the fur trade's history and the commercial use of fur in Canada. A thirst for fur by the kings and courts of the Old World positioned the fur trade as part of the country's industrial economy. Fur farming and conservation became increasingly important, although the lonely life of the trapper remained the same. This film offers a view of both.
On June 11 and 20, 1981, the Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) raided Restigouche Reserve, Quebec. At issue were the salmon-fishing rights of the Mi’kmaq. Because salmon has traditionally been a source of food and income for the Mi’kmaq, the Quebec government’s decision to restrict fishing aroused consternation and anger. Released in 1984, this groundbreaking and impassioned account of the police raids brought Alanis Obomsawin to international attention. The film features a remarkable on-camera exchange between Obomsawin herself and provincial Minister of Fisheries Lucien Lessard, the man who’d ordered the raid. Decades later, Jeff Barnaby, director of Rhymes for Young Ghouls, cited the film as an inspiration. “That documentary encapsulated the idea of films being a form of social protest for me... It started right there with that film.”
In this feature-length documentary by Alanis Obomsawin, it's the summer of 2000 and the country watches in disbelief as federal fisheries wage war on the Mi'kmaq fishermen of Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Why would officials of the Canadian government attack citizens for exercising rights that had been affirmed by the highest court in the land? Casting her cinematic and intellectual nets into history to provide context, Obomsawin delineates the complex roots of the conflict with passion and clarity, building a persuasive defence of the Mi'kmaq position.