Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 12–14

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 12–14

These films for middle-school learners feature stories from acclaimed filmmakers Thérèse Ottawa, Gil Cardinal, Caroline Monnet, and others from across Canada.

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom is an extension of our Wide Awake Tour for the public. It offers teachers, students and parents the opportunity to watch films selected from our collection of more than 250 Indigenous-made works. We’ve created playlists of these titles, grouping them by student age recommendation and professional development themes for teachers.

They touch on various subjects related to the topic of nationhood, including: the search for identity, Atikamekw roots, fatherhood, richness of heritage, celebration of heritage and the power of dancing in a powwow, ignorance, prejudice, racism, empowerment, bullying, discrimination, the Abenaki tribe, loss of home and land, colonization, the Indian Act and Bill C-31, Indigenous stereotypes, Indigenous pride, the Haisla people of British Columbia, the journey of the G’psgolox Pole, Indigenous languages, the Talking Circle, the Potlatch, Indigenous medicine, intergenerational knowledge, present-day environmental issues and concerns, oppression and resistance, conflict resolution, traditional Indigenous dance, hunting and trapping, Pete Standing Alone and the Blood Indians of Southern Alberta (English only), residential schools, preserving the traditional ways of life, and Indigenous elders.

Curriculum links include:
Diversity and Pluralism – Identity, Indigenous Studies – Identity/Society/History and Politics, Health and Personal Development – Disease Prevention, Social Studies – Social History/Canadian Politics and Government/Law, English Language Arts, Visual Arts, Media Education, History and Citizenship Education – Population and Settlement/Culture and Currents of Thought/Civil Rights and Freedoms

  • Red Path
    2015|15 min

    This short documentary tells the story of Tony Chachai, a young Indigenous man in search of his identity. Moved by the desire to reconnect with his Atikamekw roots, he delivers a touching testimony on the journey that brought him closer to his family and community. On the verge of becoming a father himself, he becomes increasingly aware of the richness of his heritage and celebrates it by dancing in a powwow.

    This film was produced as part of Tremplin NIKANIK, a competition for francophone First Nations filmmakers in Quebec.

  • For Angela

    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.

  • Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises
    2006|1 h 44 min

    Yvonne M'Sadoques rocks forward in her chair. She's lived in the Abenaki community of Odanak for over a century - and has no shortage of stories to tell.

    "The priest would march into our home and order us to stop dancing. We were going to the devil, he said." She pauses, a humorous glint in her eye. "But you know - I don't really believe in the devil. Do you?"

    M'Sadoques is in conversation with Alanis Obomsawin, another of Odanak's proud daughters - and one of Canada's leading documentary filmmakers.

    Obomsawin's illustrious career comes full circle with Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises. Having dedicated nearly four decades to chronicling the lives of Canada's First Nations, she returns to the village where she was raised to craft a lyric account of her own people.

  • As I Am
    2010|4 min

    This short experimental documentary challenges stereotypes about Indigenous people in the workplace. Featuring portraits set to a powerful poem by Mohawk writer Janet Marie Rogers, the film urges viewers to go beyond their preconceived notions. As I Am is a celebration of Indigenous people’s pride in their work and culture.

    This film is part of the Work For All series, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, with the participation of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

  • Totem: Return and Renewal
    2007|23 min

    In his 2003 NFB film Totem: the Return of the G'psgolox Pole, filmmaker Gil Cardinal documented the struggle of the Haisla people of British Columbia to recover a traditional mortuary totem pole. This half-hour documentary follows the events of the final journey of the G'psgolox Pole as it returns home to Kitamaat and the Haisla people.

  • 360 Degrees
    2008|18 min

    Sébastien Aubin lives in a Winnipeg loft and works as a graphic artist. He's also a French-speaking member of Manitoba's Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Alongside his professional life, he's on a spiritual and identity quest. In a bid to transcend the material world, he has begun an apprenticeship in traditional Aboriginal medicine.

    Mark Thompson is the healer who has chosen to teach Sébastien. The backdrop to this transfer of knowledge between the generations is today's accelerated world, embodied by Sébastien, who is caught between modernity and tradition. In a context of environmental crisis, the 360-degree turn from the values of the past to those of today becomes strikingly apparent.

    This documentary was made as part of the Tremplin program, with the collaboration of Radio-Canada.

  • Vistas: Boxed In
    2009|4 min

    In this short film, a young woman of mixed ancestry struggles with an Equal Opportunity Form that requires her to respond to the dilemma: Ethnicity - Choose One.

  • Vistas: Crossing the Line
    2009|3 min

    Crossing the Line turns the politics and conflicts of a playground sandbox into an allegory for the way nations treat one another, and the borders seem to do more harm than good.

  • Vistas: Wave a Red Flag
    2009|4 min

    On her way to school, a teenage girl's display of Native pride sparks a celebration of community and culture.

  • Vistas - The Visit
    2009|3 min

    The Visit tells the true story of a Cree family's strange encounter one winter night, which results in a conversation beyond words.

  • Vistas: Button Blanket
    2009|3 min

    This short impressionist documentary looks at the creation of a Button Blanket by integrating the performance of a traditional dance with the art of the West coast Heiltsuk people.

  • Vistas: Trapper
    2009|2 min

    Trapper is a beautiful short film without words that captures the quiet dignity of a day in the life of a Northern trapper. It is part of a collection of 13 short films on the theme of "nationhood."

  • Round Up
    2010|18 min

    This short film traces Pete Standing Alone's personal journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging. As a spiritual elder, teacher and community leader of the Blood Indians of Southern Alberta, Pete works with youth to repair the cultural and spiritual destruction wrought by residential schools. At age 81, he has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people.