Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 15–18

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 15–18

These films for high-school learners include stories from directors Christine Welsh, Alanis Obomsawin, Dennis Allen, Tasha Hubbard, Sara Roque, and Bobby Kenuajuak, as well as the series Second Stories from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 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 for these titles, grouping them by student age recommendation and professional development themes for teachers.

These are stories about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the Highway of Tears, Indigenous rights activism, violence against Indigenous Women, Indigenous stereotypes, racism, marginalized communities, community healing, the Oka Crisis, the Kahnawake tribe, Cree burial traditions, Indigenous pride, reconciliation, healing and recovery, residential schools, Two-Spirited people, salmon fishing rights, the Mi’kmaq people, historical perspective on contemporary Indigenous issues, village life in Puvirnituq, preserving cultures and traditions, suicide, addiction, substance abuse, co-existence of traditions and modernity, police violence, Saskatoon’s infamous “freezing deaths,” Indigenous women leadership, the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve blockade, legal, land and human-rights issues, historical and contemporary understanding of relationships between Indigenous people and the Canadian government, the role of radio in a small community of Teetl’it Gwich’in, the Oka crisis and the now-infamous stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian Army.

Curriculum links include:
Indigenous Studies – Identity/Society/History and Politics, Civics and Citizenship – Human Rights, History and Citizenship Education – Issues in Society Today/Quebec Society Since 1980, Health and Personal Development – Identity/Bullying and Discrimination/Substance Use and Addictions, English Language Arts, Media Education – Documentary Film, Social Studies – Law/Communities in Canada, Geography – Territory, Technology Education – Society and Technology

  • Finding Dawn
    2006|1 h 13 min

    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.

  • My Name Is Kahentiiosta
    1995|29 min

    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.

  • Second Stories - Deb-we-win Ge-ken-am-aan, Our Place in the Circle
    2008|22 min

    Lorne Olson's short documentary presents a vision he had of two-spirited people dancing, laughing, and smiling. His vision spurs him to rediscover the strength of the past to better face the challenges of today. This funny and buoyant film documents his touching journey.

    Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced 3 separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Second Stories builds on that success by continuing the training with 3 of the 12 Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling short documentaries. Produced in association with CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND.

  • Second Stories - Honour Thy Father
    2008|21 min

    This short documentary takes a poignant look at cultural misunderstanding and its toll on a family's grief. When filmmaker Gerald Auger lost his father, the local Anglican priest refused to allow the family to bury their father in the traditional Cree way - with the drum and the smudge - because he was buried on Anglican church property. Gerald sets out to resolve his hurt and anger and his path leads him to some unexpected places.

    Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced 3 separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Second Stories builds on that success by continuing the training with 3 of the 12 Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling short documentaries. Produced in association with CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND.

  • Second Stories - It Had to Be Done
    2008|22 min

    This short documentary explores the legacy of residential schools through the eyes of two extraordinary women who not only lived it, but who, as adults, made the surprising decision to return to the school that had affected their lives so profoundly. This intimate and moving film affirms their strength and dignity in standing up and making a difference on their own terms.

    Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced 3 separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Second Stories builds on that success by continuing the training with 3 of the 12 Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling short documentaries. Produced in association with CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND.

  • Vistas: InukShop
    2009|2 min

    In this short film, filmmaker Jobie Weetaluktuk mixes archival and new footage to make a statement about the appropriation of Inuit culture throughout history.

    Vistas is a series of 13 short films on nationhood from 13 Indigenous filmmakers from Halifax to Vancouver. It was a collaborative project between the NFB and APTN to bring Indigenous perspectives and stories to an international audience.

  • Incident at Restigouche
    1984|45 min

    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.”

  • My Village in Nunavik
    1999|47 min

    Shot during 3 seasons, this documentary tenderly portrays village life in Puvirnituq, on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, as well as the elements that forge the character of its people: their history, the great open spaces, and their unflagging humour.

    This film was produced as part of an emerging filmmaker competition for Indigenous filmmakers. It was directed by Bobby Kenuajuak of Puvirnituq, age 23.

  • Inuuvunga, I am Inuk, I am Alive (Inuktitut version)
    2004|57 min

    In this feature-length documentary, 8 Inuit teens with cameras offer a vibrant and contemporary view of life in Canada’s North. They also use their newly acquired film skills to confront a broad range of issues, from the widening communication gap between youth and their elders to the loss of their peers to suicide.

  • Two Worlds Colliding
    2004|49 min

    This documentary chronicles the story of Darrell Night, an Indigenous man who was dumped by two police officers in a barren field on the outskirts of Saskatoon in January 2000, during -20° C temperatures. He survived, but he was stunned to hear that the frozen body of another Indigenous man was discovered in the same area.

    This film 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 shocking secret.

  • Six Miles Deep
    2009|43 min

    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.

  • Crazywater
    2013|56 min

    This feature-length documentary from Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen is an emotional and revealing exploration of addiction among Indigenous people in Canada.

    After years of struggle and shame, 5 Indigenous Canadians bravely come forward with their stories of substance abuse, presenting the sensitive topic of alcoholism in an honest and forthright manner. Alex, Paula, Desirae, Stephen, and Dennis himself maintain a deep and devoted commitment to their traditional culture to achieve long-term sobriety. Through their voices, this insightful doc offers an inspirational beacon of hope for others.

  • CBQM
    2009|1 h 6 min

    This feature-length documentary pays tribute to CBQM, the radio station that operates out of Fort McPherson, a small town about 150 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Canadian Northwest Territories. Through storytelling and old-time country music, filmmaker and long-time listener Dennis Allen crafts a nuanced portrait of the "Moccasin Telegraph," the radio station that is a pillar of local identity and pride in this lively northern Teetl'it Gwich'in community of 800 souls.

  • Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance
    1993|1 h 59 min

    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.”