Stories of resistance, strength and perseverance are laid bare in this examination of a dark day in Canadian history. At the height of tensions at Oka, Quebec, in 1990, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) women, children and Elders fled their community of Kahnawake out of fear for their safety. Once past the Canadian Army that surrounded their home, they were assaulted by angry non-Indigenous protesters who pelted their convoy with rocks. This visceral display of hatred and violence – rarely seen so publicly in Canada – shocked the nation and revealed the severity of the dangers that faced the Kanien’kehá:ka in their struggle to defend a sacred site.
This film is the fourth in Alanis Obomsawin’s landmark series on the Mohawk resistance at Oka that would become a pivot point in contemporary relationships between Indigenous nations and Canada.
Covering a vast swath of northern Ontario, Treaty No. 9 reflects the often contradictory interpretations of treaties between First Nations and the Crown. To the Canadian government, this treaty represents a surrendering of Indigenous sovereignty, while the descendants of the Cree signatories contend its original purpose to share the land and its resources has been misunderstood and not upheld. Enlightening as it is entertaining, Trick or Treaty? succinctly and powerfully portrays one community’s attempts to enforce their treaty rights and protect their lands, while also revealing the complexities of contemporary treaty agreements. Trick or Treaty? made history as the first film by an Indigenous filmmaker to be part of the Masters section at TIFF when it screened there in 2014.
Also available on the Alanis Obomsawin, A Legacy DVD box set
In July 1990, a dispute over a proposed golf course to be built on Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) lands in Oka, Quebec, set the stage for a historic confrontation that would grab international headlines and sear itself into the Canadian consciousness. Director Alanis Obomsawin—at times with a small crew, at times alone—spent 78 days behind Kanien’kéhaka lines filming the armed standoff between protestors, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. Released in 1993, this landmark documentary has been seen around the world, winning over a dozen international awards and making history at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it became the first documentary ever to win the Best Canadian Feature award. Jesse Wente, Director of Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office, has called it a “watershed film in the history of First Peoples cinema.”
This feature-length documentary recounts the events that surrounded and led to the Oka Crisis of the summer of 1990. The film focuses on the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, in Quebec, but also reflects on the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples at a particular time in history.
This documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin introduces us to Randy Horne, a high steel worker from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, near Montreal. As a defender of his people's culture and traditions, he was known as "Spudwrench" during the 1990 Oka crisis.Offering a unique look behind the barricades at one man's impassioned defense of sacred territory, the film is both a portrait of Horne and the generations of daring Mohawk construction workers that have preceded him.
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.
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.
This documentary is an inquiry into what came to be known as Saskatoon's infamous "freezing deaths," and the schism between a fearful, mistrustful Indigenous community and a police force harbouring a harrowing secret.One frigid night in January 2000 Darrell Night, an Indigenous man was dumped by two police officers in -20° C temperatures in a barren field on the city outskirts. He survives the ordeal but is stunned to hear that the frozen body of another Indigenous man was discovered in the same area. Days later, another victim, also Native, is found. When Night comes forward with his story, he sets into motion a chain of events: a major RCMP investigation into several suspicious deaths, the conviction of the two constables who abandoned him and the reopening of an old case, leading to a judicial inquiry.
In this feature-length documentary, Indigenous filmmaker and artist Alanis Obomsawin chronicles the determination and tenacity of the Listuguj Mi'kmaq people to use and manage the natural resources of their traditional lands. The film provides a contemporary perspective on the Mi'kmaq people's ongoing struggle and ultimate success, culminating in the community receiving an award for Best Managed River from the same government that had denied their traditional rights.
This short documentary offers a portrait of a group of women who led their community, the largest reserve in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, in an historic blockade to protect their land.On February 28, 2006, members of the Iroquois Confederacy blockaded a highway near Caledonia, Ontario to prevent a housing development on land that falls within their traditional territories. The ensuing confrontation made national headlines for months. Less well-known is the crucial role of the clan mothers of the community who set the rules for conduct. When the community's chiefs ask people to abandon the barricades, it is the clan mothers who overrule them, leading a cultural reawakening in their traditionally matriarchal community.
This film follows the aftermath of the Oka crisis, which brought Indigenous rights into sharp focus. After the barricades came down, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was created, and travelled to more than 100 communities and heard from more than 1,000 representatives. For two-and-a-half years, teams of Indigenous filmmakers followed the Commission on its journey.
Ages 16 to 18
Civics/Citizenship - Citizen Responsibilities
Ethics and Religious Culture - Ethical Values
Geography - Territory: Indigenous
Health/Personal Development - Bullying & Discrimination
Warnings: M (Violence, hate speech, racially charged language). This film exposes the context, events and impacts of the 1990 Kanehsatà:ke’s resistance and can be used to prompt deeper learning and understanding through research, essays, projects, discussions and debates. Describe the shift in Kanehsatà:ke’s territory over time and consider how this relates to their inhuman and unethical treatment. Should the injustices of the past be repaired? What actions can citizens take today to reconcile with injustice and with the hateful and inhumane treatment of Indigenous Peoples? What does the resistance say about settler-colonialism? Does racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples continue today, and are there other Canadian examples comparable to the Kanehsatà:ke’s resistance? Research how law enforcement systems and institutions contribute to hatred and violence directed against Indigenous people who try to enforce their treaty rights. How did the Kanehsatà:ke resistance change the narrative of Canada? Why does it continue to be a struggle to have treaties respected and recognized by the government and citizens? Describe the ethical values of the perpetrators who fought against the Kanehsatà:ke, who were seeking to maintain their land and honour their dead.