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.
Acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh brings us a compelling documentary that puts a human face on a national tragedy – the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The film takes a journey into the heart of Indigenous women's experience, from Vancouver's skid row, down the Highway of Tears in northern BC, and on to Saskatoon, where the murders and disappearances of these women remain unsolved.
Richard Cardinal died by his own hand at the age of 17, having spent most of his life in a string of foster homes and shelters across Alberta. In this short documentary, Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin weaves excerpts from Richard’s diary into a powerful tribute to his short life. Released in 1984—decades before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—the film exposed the systemic neglect and mistreatment of Indigenous children in Canada’s child welfare system. Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 1986 American Indian Film Festival, the film screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2008 as part of an Obomsawin retrospective, and continues to be shown around the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
Shoal Lake 40 women talk about their struggles, and those of their parents and grandparents, in trying to raise their families in a hazardous state of enforced isolation. Everyone in the community has a harrowing story of a loved one falling through the ice while trying to get across the lake, with pregnant women and new mothers fearing for their babies and having no choice but to make the trek in dangerous conditions. The film shows the key role of the community’s women in demanding funding for the road from three levels of government, and how their reconnection to culture and ceremony give them the strength to keep going.
This short documentary by Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Kahentiiosta, a young Kahnawake Mohawk woman arrested after the Oka Crisis' 78-day armed standoff in 1990. She was detained 4 days longer than the other women. Her crime? The prosecutor representing the Quebec government did not accept her Indigenous name.
Ages 14 to 17
Civics/Citizenship - Human Rights
Health/Personal Development - Bullying & Discrimination
Indigenous Studies - History/Politics
Indigenous Studies - Identity/Society
Discuss the title of the film. How does it apply to the events in the film? Refer students to the following website. Be prepared to answer any questions or comments that may arise as they read the document. Generate an awareness discussion on the information it gives.