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

    Dawn Crey. Ramona Wilson. Daleen Kay Bosse. These are just three of the estimated 500 Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past thirty years. Directed by acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh, Finding Dawn is a compelling documentary that puts a human face to this national tragedy.

    This is an epic journey into the dark heart of Indigenous women's experience in Canada. From Vancouver's skid row, where more than 60 women are missing, we travel to the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia, and onward to Saskatoon, where the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women remain unresolved.

    Along the road to honour those who have passed, we uncover reason for hope. It lives in Indigenous rights activists Professor Janice Acoose and Fay Blaney. It drives events such as the annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver and inspires communities all along the length of Highway 16 to come together to demand change.

    Finding Dawn illustrates the deep historical, social and economic factors that contribute to the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in this country. It goes further to present the ultimate message that stopping the violence is everyone's responsibility.

  • My Name Is Kahentiiosta
    1995|29 min

    This documentary short 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

    "Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced three separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. First Stories films have gone on to win many awards, both collectively and individually, in national and international festivals and competitions. Second Stories builds on that success by providing a continuum of training for three of the twelve Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling documentary shorts. Through this unique mentoring and training process, Second Stories filmmakers have a chance to hone their storytelling craft (in a professional production experience), while working with a strong creative team to assist in the realization of their half-hour documentaries. Each of the filmmakers selected were assigned a story consultant/story editor and an NFB producer. As was the case with First Stories, the emphasis is on enabling Indigenous filmmakers to tell the stories that are important to them and their communities. The partners in this special initiative are CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND. Deb-we-win Ge-kend-am-aan, Our Place in the Circle Filmmaker Lorne Olson had a vision of two-spirited people dancing, smiling, laughing; they were moving without shame, at peace with themselves and their place in the world. Two-spirited people are comprised of a male and female spirit. Historically, they were venerated for their gifts, but such respect isn't necessarily the case today. Lorne's vision sparks 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 - Honour Thy Father
    2008|21 min

    "Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced three separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. First Stories films have gone on to win many awards, both collectively and individually, in national and international festivals and competitions. Second Stories builds on that success by providing a continuum of training for three of the twelve Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling documentary shorts. Through this unique mentoring and training process, Second Stories filmmakers have a chance to hone their storytelling craft (in a professional production experience), while working with a strong creative team to assist in the realization of their half-hour documentaries. Each of the filmmakers selected were assigned a story consultant/story editor and an NFB producer. As was the case with First Stories, the emphasis is on enabling Indigenous filmmakers to tell the stories that are important to them and their communities. The partners in this special initiative are CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND. Honour Thy Father Honour Thy Father is a poignant look at cultural misunderstanding and its toll on a family's grief. The loss of his father was a devastating blow for filmmaker Gerald Auger. 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 by seeking official church approval to honour his father traditionally; his path leads him to some unexpected places."

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

    Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced three separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. First Stories films have gone on to win many awards, both collectively and individually, in national and international festivals and competitions. Second Stories builds on that success by providing a continuum of training for three of the twelve Aboriginal filmmakers who delivered such compelling documentary shorts.

    Through this unique mentoring and training process, Second Stories filmmakers have a chance to hone their storytelling craft (in a professional production experience), while working with a strong creative team to assist in the realization of their half-hour documentaries. Each of the filmmakers selected were assigned a story consultant/story editor and an NFB producer. As was the case with First Stories, the emphasis is on enabling First Nations filmmakers to tell the stories that are important to them and their communities.

    The partners in this special initiative are CBC, APTN, SCN, SaskFilm and MANITOBA FILM & SOUND.

    The Settlement

    It Had To Be Done explores the legacy of residential schools through the eyes of two extraordinary women who not only lived it firsthand, but who, as adults, made the surprising choice 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.

  • Vistas: InukShop
    2009|2 min

    Filmmaker Jobie Weetaluktuk mixes archival and new footage to make a statement about the appropriation of Inuit culture throughout history.

  • Incident at Restigouche
    1984|45 min

    On June 11 and 20, 1981, the Québec Provincial Police (QPP) raided Restigouche Reserve, Québec. At issue were the salmon-fishing rights of the Mi’kmaq people. Because salmon has traditionally been a source of food and income for the Mi’kmaq, the Québec government's decision to restrict fishing aroused consternation and anger. This film provides a historical perspective on the issue, and documents, with newsclips, photographs and interviews, the two police raids. An interview with former Québec Minister of Fisheries Lucien Lessard explaining the motives of his decision complements the Mi’kmaqs' account of the event. This investigation into the history-making raids is a powerful film that puts justice on trial.

  • 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 directed by Bobby Kenuajuak, who was born in Puvirnituq in 1976. At age 23, he won a NFB contest for Indigenous filmmakers, which allowed him to produce this film.

  • 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, a Native 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 found shelter at a nearby power station and survived the ordeal, but he was stunned to hear that the frozen body of another Aboriginal man was discovered in the same area. Days later, another victim, also Native, was found.

    This film is an inquiry into what came to be known as Saskatoon's infamous "freezing deaths" and the schism between a fearful, mistrustful Aboriginal community and a police force that must come to terms with a shocking secret.

  • Six Miles Deep
    2009|43 min

    A documentary 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 (also known as the Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse) blockade a highway near Caledonia, Ontario to prevent a housing development on land that falls within their traditional territories. The ensuing confrontation makes 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

    After years of struggle and shame, five Indigenous Canadians are bravely telling their stories. Crazywater is an emotional and revealing exploration of substance abuse among Indigenous people in Canada, directed by Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen. Rarely have their own perspectives on the sensitive topic of alcoholism been presented in such an honest and forthright manner. Dennis introduces Alex, Stephen, Paula and Desirae, who courageously share their experiences. Alex's struggles with alcoholism were an attempt to forget the abuse he suffered at a residential school. Drinking and drug use were Stephen's way of burying the childhood trauma he couldn't bear. For Paula and Desirae-two mothers with a dark history of addiction-family becomes the key to breaking the cycle of abuse. Like his subjects, the director himself is a recovering alcoholic. Dennis describes his decades-long battle with alcoholism, which began when he took his first drink-when he was only a boy. The survivors maintain a deep and devoted commitment to their traditional cultures as a means to achieving long-term sobriety. Through their voices, this insightful documentary offers an inspirational beacon of hope for those whose lives have been affected by addiction.

  • CBQM
    2009|1 h 6 min

    This full-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

    On a hot July day in 1990, an historic confrontation propelled Indigenous issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Québec, into the international spotlight and into the Canadian conscience. Director Alanis Obomsawin endured 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Québec police and the Canadian army. A powerful feature-documentary emerges that takes you right into the action of an age-old Indigenous struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades, providing insight into the Mohawks' unyelding determination to protect their land.