The Ballad of Crowfoot
Challenge for Change - A selection by Thomas Waugh, Ezra Winton, Michael Baker

The Ballad of Crowfoot

| 10 min
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This short film examines the situation of Aboriginal people in North America through the figure of Crowfoot, the legendary 19th-century Blackfoot leader of the Plains. A rapid montage of archival photos, etchings and contemporary newspaper clippings is married to the words and music of an impassioned ballad written by Mi'kmaq singer and songwriter Willie Dunn.

The Ballad of Crowfoot is among the most popular and most widely screened films from the CFC/SN program. Filmed entirely by members of the Indian Film Crew, the First Nations unit founded by the NFB's National Indian Training Programme in cooperation with the Company for Young Canadians, The Ballad of Crowfoot asserted Aboriginal rights and placed the media in targeted community's hands. The skilful compilation of archival photographs in combination with the stirring use of director Willie Dunn's original song create a space in which deference and tribute are paid to the legendary Blackfoot leader while the stakes for contemporary First Nations struggles are laid bare. A rousing finale of contemporary newspaper headlines cataloguing a series of injustices against the First Nations people through Canada's history establishes an informative bridge to the actions and issues captured in CFC films You Are on Indian Land (1969), God Help the Man Who Would Part With his Land (1971), Cree Hunters of Mistassini (1974), and Our Land Is Our Life (1974).

Thomas Waugh, Ezra Winton, Michael Baker
From the playlist: Challenge for Change

Notable for being one of the first films produced by the NFB’s Indian Film Crew, The Ballad of Crowfoot is also remarkable for its haunting archival images set to an impassioned ballad written and performed by director Willie Dunn: “Crowfoot, Crowfoot, why the tears? You’ve been a brave man for many years, Why the sadness? Why the sorrow? Maybe there will be a better tomorrow.”

Gil Cardinal
From the playlist: The Aboriginal Voice: the National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years

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Credits
  • director
    Willie Dunn
  • script
    Willie Dunn
  • music
    Willie Dunn
  • producer
    Barrie Howells

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  • MTMohawk

    I heard this was Canada's first music video.

    MTMohawk, 7 Sep 2016
  • lgemmel

    A haunting story... I have only discovered this now, but the ballad is so very relevant.

    lgemmel, 30 Sep 2014
  • kenprue

    It's 2012 and nothing has changed. The government's still at their diminishing game. In Attawapiskat they take what pride remains. They tally your losses and then they blame. They treat you like children. Control you with shame.

    kenprue, 11 Jan 2012
  • kenprue

    It's 2012 and nothing has changed. The government's still at their diminishing game. In Attawapiskat they take what pride remains. They tally your losses and then they blame. They treat you like children. Control you with shame.

    kenprue, 11 Jan 2012
  • jcurell

    An incredibly powerful digital story--unfortunatly still so relevant today...

    jcurell, 6 Dec 2011