The Road Forward, a musical documentary by Marie Clements, connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with the powerful momentum of First Nations activism today. The Road Forward’s stunningly shot musical sequences, performed by an ensemble of some of Canada’s finest vocalists and musicians, seamlessly connect past and present with soaring vocals, blues, rock, and traditional beats. A rousing tribute to the fighters for First Nations rights, a soul-resounding historical experience, and a visceral call to action.
A tribute to Indigenous women everywhere, this short documentary focuses on 5 women from across Canada. Of varied ages and backgrounds, they have achieved success in a variety of careers: as the Yukon legislature's first Indigenous woman minister (Margaret Joe), as a deck hand on a fishing boat (Corinne Hunt), as a teacher (Sophie MacLeod), as a lawyer (Roberta Jamieson), and as a band council chief (Sophie May Pierre - St. Mary’s Indian Band of the Ktunaxa Nation off the Ktunaxa Nation).Each of these women talks about how she got to where she is today while emphasizing the importance of Indigenous culture - its values, art, and spiritual beliefs - in helping her to develop a sense of self and seeing through rough times, including residential school experiences.
As the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Senator Murray Sinclair was a key figure in raising global awareness of the atrocities of Canada’s residential school system. With determination, wisdom and kindness, Senator Sinclair remains steadfast in his belief that the path to actual reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people requires understanding and accepting often difficult truths about Canada’s past and present. Alanis Obomsawin shares the powerful speech the Senator gave when he accepted the WFM-Canada World Peace Award, interspersing the heartbreaking testimonies of former students imprisoned at residential schools. The honouring of Senator Sinclair reminds us to honour the lives and legacies of the tens of thousands of Indigenous children taken from their homes and cultures, and leaves us with a profound feeling of hope for a better future.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin, A Legacy DVD box set
The men of Shoal Lake 40 tell the story of life in the community from their perspective, in the lead-up to their annual powwow. Lorne Redsky works the outdated pump house; there is no money to fix basic systems and bottled water is required for everyday use. As Lorne focuses his energy on the monumental task of getting clean water to the powwow, community member Kavin Redsky prepares his regalia for dancing, a deeply personal process connected to his healing journey. The two men embody the powerful gifts of community, traditional culture, and medicines, which have given the people of Shoal Lake 40 the resilience to continue the fight for Freedom Road
In this deeply moving feature-length documentary, three sisters and a brother meet for the first time. Removed from their young Dene mother during the infamous Sixties Scoop, they were separated as infants and adopted into families across North America.Betty Ann, Esther, Rosalie, and Ben were only four of the 20,000 Indigenous Canadian children taken from their families between 1955 and 1985, to be either adopted into white families or live in foster care. As the four siblings piece together their shared history, their connection deepens, and their family begins to take shape.
On August 9, 2016, a young Cree man named Colten Boushie died from a gunshot to the back of his head after entering Gerald Stanley’s rural property with his friends. The jury’s subsequent acquittal of Stanley captured international attention, raising questions about racism embedded within Canada’s legal system and propelling Colten’s family to national and international stages in their pursuit of justice. Sensitively directed by Tasha Hubbard, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up weaves a profound narrative encompassing the filmmaker’s own adoption, the stark history of colonialism on the Prairies, and a vision of a future where Indigenous children can live safely on their homelands.
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 five short minutes, this short film destroys any remaining shreds of the myth of a fair and just Canada. Children forced from their homes and sent to residential schools, families examined like livestock in crowded tuberculosis clinics, tainted water and land, poisoned for industry and profit at the cost of Indigenous lives, and the list goes on. But filmmaker Jeff Barnaby's message is clear: We are still here. Featuring the music of Tanya Tagaq.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 story begins over a century ago, when the City of Winnipeg decides that the water surrounding the traditional Anishinaabe territory of what is now Shoal Lake 40 First Nation will be diverted and used as Winnipeg’s primary water source. The community, their ancient burial grounds, environment, and ways of life are forever disrupted, and access to opportunities and essential services are severed. Enforced residential schooling and a tainted water supply compound the devastating impact. Community leader and former combat engineer Daryl Redsky sheds light on how generations of complex planning, cultural preservation and mobilization have led us to the current moment—and to the construction of Freedom Road.
This short film was created by a group of Indigenous filmmakers at the NFB in 1972 and is essentially a song by Willie Dunn sung by Bob Charlie and illustrated by John Fadden: "Who were the ones who bid you welcome and took you by the hand, inviting you here by our campfires, as brothers we might stand?"The song expresses bitter memories of the past, of trust repaid by treachery, and of friendship debased by exploitation upon the arrival of European colonists.
Our People Will Be Healed, Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th film, reveals how a Cree community in Manitoba has been enriched through the power of education. The Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre in Norway House, north of Winnipeg, receives a level of funding that few other Indigenous institutions enjoy. Its teachers help their students to develop their abilities and their sense of pride.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin, A Legacy DVD box set
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.
Ages 15 to 18
History and Citizenship Education - Civil Rights and Freedoms
Indigenous Studies - History/Politics
Indigenous Studies - Identity/Society
Indigenous Studies - Issues and Contemporary Challenges
Comment on the filmmaker’s decision to make The Road Forward a musical documentary. Discuss why the publication The Native Voice was considered so unusual and innovative for its time. Indigenous youth are often considered “at risk youth” when they are actually “culturally deprived youth.” Explain what strategies can effect changes in the education of Indigenous youth. Identify what the Constitution Express was and explain its significance in the history of Indigenous activism. What are the key concerns in Indigenous activism today?