Episode 1: Anishnabe
Director: Josephine Bacon
"The child who goes elsewhere must possess his own culture as transmitted through the territory. In that way, his identity and language will be stronger." - Maggie Wawatie, Alternative school teacher, Rapid Lake
Rapid Lake, an Algonquin community where most people still speak Anishnabe, is divided between the traditionalists and the federally appointed band council. In the neighbouring community of Kiticisakik, which has always refused reserve status, a young videographer uses his skills to revive culture and language.
In Rapid Lake, Quebec, Kitci Migwam Federal Elementary School has been operating since 1950. Here we meet teachers Louise Wawatie and Flora Papatie who are teaching Anishnabe with the use of pictures, song and stories.
We are also introduced to retired Anishnabe teacher, Mary Whiteduck, and her son, John Whiteduck. At her home, Mary works in her yard, butchering and cooking bear meat, as she talks about her work as a language teacher not only in Rapid Lake but also in other Algonquin communities were the language was in decline. Her son, John, lost fluency at a young age as a result of leaving the community for remedial school. Now a fluent Anishnabe speaker, John regained his knowledge of the language from his grandmother.
Rapid Lake is also a community divided by politics. One faction supports a new band council appointed by the Canadian government and their children learn Anishnabe at the federal school. Another faction is loyal to the deposed traditional council and have created an alternative school where the teachings are based on the ancestral way of life. In this segment, the traditionalists erect a blockade on route 117 as part of their fight for greater territorial autonomy. Over at the alternative school, we join the students on a trip into the woods where they learn how to live off the land.
Kevin Papatie is a young videographer and coordinator of the Midaweski Studio in the neighbouring community of Kitcisakik. He’s one of the few members of his generation to still speak the language. Kevin is using his skills to help revive Anishnabe language and culture by documenting activities in his own community and throughout the greater Algonquin territory.