Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 6–11

Indigenous Cinema in the Classroom Ages 6–11

These short films for younger learners are by Indigenous filmmakers from across Canada and include titles from the Nunavut Animation Lab and the Talespinners, Vistas and Stories from Our Land series.

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 for teachers.

These stories address a range of subjects, such as: the influence of elders, realizing your potential, sharing knowledge, discovering history and culture, the power of nature, parent/child relationships, Arctic landscapes and Inuit objects and iconography, first contact, Inuit folklore, the hoop dance, Indigenous traditions, intergenerational knowledge, Mi’kmaq legends, traditional crafts and skills such as sled making and igloo building, music and dance, and seal hunting.

Curriculum links include:
Diversity and Pluralism, Indigenous Studies – Identity/Society, Geography – The Arctic, History and Citizenship Education – European Expansion, Arts Education – Visual Arts, Family Studies/Home Economics, Media Education – Film Animation, English Language Arts – Children’s Stories and Fables

  • Maq and the Spirit of the Woods
    2006|8 min

    This animated short tells the story of Maq, a Mi’gmaq boy who realizes his potential with the help of inconspicuous mentors. When an elder in the community offers him a small piece of pipestone, Maq carves a little person out of it. Proud of his work, the boy wants to impress his grandfather and journeys through the woods to find him. Along the path Maq meets a curious traveller named Mi’gmwesu. Together they share stories, medicine, laughter and song. Maq begins to care less about making a good impression and more about sharing the knowledge and spirit he's found through his creation.

    Part of the Talespinners collection, which uses vibrant animation to bring popular children’s stories from a wide range of cultural communities to the screen.

  • Nunavut Animation Lab: I Am But a Little Woman
    2010|4 min

    Inspired by an Inuit poem first assigned to paper in 1927, this animated short evokes the beauty and power of nature, as well as the bond between mother and daughter. As her daughter looks on, an Inuit woman creates a wall hanging filled with images of the spectacular Arctic landscape and traditional Inuit objects and iconography. Soon the boundaries between art and reality begin to dissolve.

    Pedagogical guide

  • Nunavut Animation Lab: The Bear Facts
    2010|4 min

    In this animated short, a self-important colonial explorer emerges from a sailing ship and plants a flag on the Arctic ice, as a bemused Inuit hunter looks on. Then the explorer plants another, and another, and another, while the hunter, clearly not impressed that his land has been “discovered,” quietly goes about his business. In this charming and humorous re-imagining of first contact between Inuit and European, Jonathan Wright brings us the story of a savvy hunter and the ill-equipped explorer he outwits.

    Pedagogical guide

  • Nunavut Animation Lab: Lumaajuuq

    This animated short is a tragic and twisted story about the dangers of revenge. A cruel mother mistreats her son, feeding him dog meat and forcing him to sleep in the cold. A loon, who tells the boy that his mother blinded him, helps the child regain his eyesight. Then the boy seeks revenge, releasing his mother’s lifeline as she harpoons a whale and watching her drown. Based on a portion of the epic Inuit legend “The Blind Boy and the Loon.”

    Pedagogical guide

  • Nunavut Animation Lab: Qalupalik
    2010|5 min

    This animated short tells the story of Qalupalik, a part-human sea monster that lives deep in the Arctic Ocean and preys on children who do not listen to their parents or elders. That is the fate of Angutii, a young boy who refuses to help out in his family’s camp and who plays by the shoreline... until one day Qalupalik seizes him and drags him away. Angutii's father, a great hunter, must then embark on a lengthy kayak journey to try and bring his son home.

    Pedagogical guide

  • Vistas: Dancers of the Grass
    2009|2 min

    A stunning display of a stop-motion animation, Dancers of the Grass vividly depicts the majesty of the hoop dance, a tradition symbolizing the unity of all nations.

  • Vistas: Little Thunder

    This animated short, inspired by the Mi'kmaq legend The Stone Canoe, explores Aboriginal humour. We follow Little Thunder as he reluctantly leaves his family and sets out on a cross-country canoe trip to become a man.

  • Stories from Our Land 1.5: Family Making Sleds
    2012|5 min

    There’s a lot happening in the Arctic. Canadians are talking about environmental, geopolitical, military and cultural issues, and Stories from Our Land: 1.5 adds engaging voices to the discussion. The Stories program gave 6 Nunavut filmmakers the opportunity to create a 5-minute short that followed a couple of key guidelines: Each film had to be made without the use of interviews or narration, and it had to tell a northern story from a northern perspective.

    Family Making Sleds
    A man threads rope through runners and slats, expertly tying the knots that hold them together. Meanwhile, a woman and her child cut up cardboard, shaping and decorating the pieces to create their own stylized sleds. Family Making Sleds is an homage to the skill of building sleds that also captures the sheer joy of using them to race downhill.

    Filmmaker Rosie Bonnie Ammaaq lives in Igloolik.

  • Stories from Our Land 1.5: If You Want to Get Married... You Have to Learn How to Build an Igloo!
    2011|5 min

    There’s a lot happening in the Arctic. Canadians are talking about environmental, geopolitical, military and cultural issues, and Stories from Our Land: 1.5 adds engaging voices to the discussion. The Stories program gave 6 Nunavut filmmakers the opportunity to create a 5-minute short that followed a couple of key guidelines: Each film had to be made without the use of interviews or narration, and it had to tell a northern story from a northern perspective.

    If You Want to Get Married... You Have to Learn How to Build an Igloo!
    In the spirit of the 1949 NFB classic How to Build an Igloo, this film records Dean Ittuksarjuat as he constructs the traditional Inuit home. From the first cut of the snow knife, to the carving of the entrance after the last block of snow has been placed on the roof, this is an inside-and-out look at the entire fascinating process.

    Filmmaker Allen Auksaq lives in Iqaluit.

  • Stories from Our Land 1.5: Tide
    2012|4 min

    There’s a lot happening in the Arctic. Canadians are talking about environmental, geopolitical, military and cultural issues, and Stories from Our Land: 1.5 adds engaging voices to the discussion. The Stories program gave 6 Nunavut filmmakers the opportunity to create a 5-minute short that followed a couple of key guidelines: Each film had to be made without the use of interviews or narration, and it had to tell a northern story from a northern perspective.

    Tide
    A beautiful short film that captures the majesty of ice sculpted by wind and water. Time-lapse imagery reveals the dynamic intertidal dance of water and ice in the Arctic.

    Filmmaker Ericka Chemko lives in Iqaluit.

  • Stories from Our Land - Inngiruti: The Thing that Sings!
    2012|5 min

    In Pangnirtung, two elders reminisce about the dances held in their community 50 years ago. One of the elders is master accordion player Simeonie Keenainak, and pretty soon he is making toe-tapping music with his instrument. In this celebration of the pleasures of music and dance, Keenainak plays for the enjoyment of friends, family and the community at large.

  • Stories From Our Land 1.5: Nippaq
    2011|3 min

    There’s a lot happening in the Arctic. Canadians are talking about environmental, geopolitical, military and cultural issues, and Stories from Our Land: 1.5 adds engaging voices to the discussion. The Stories program gave 6 Nunavut filmmakers the opportunity to create a 5-minute short that followed a couple of key guidelines: Each film had to be made without the use of interviews or narration, and it had to tell a northern story from a northern perspective.

    Nippaq
    Hunter Joshua Atagooyuk stands by a seal's breathing hole. He hunches over, silent, waiting. The sun crosses the sky, hours pass, yet Atagooyuk remains, waiting for the right moment to strike.

    Filmmaker Qajaaq Ellsworth lives in Iqaluit.