Weekly screenings of thought-provoking documentaries highlight Indigenous communities
Every Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., tucked away in the library theatre, a group of ten-odd students and a handful of community members watch a short documentary on Indigenous issues as part of the University’s Year of Indigenous Action.
The event has consisted of showings of the episodic CBC documentary 8th Fire for the last four weeks. The title of the documentary is a reference to an Anishinaabe prophecy predicting peace and coexistence in Canada. When asked why she brought this series to the University, librarian Elizabeth Stregger said, “It’s partly about building relationships, getting to the point where people aren’t afraid to approach each other and talk to each other.”
At 2:30 p.m., we jumped into the third episode of 8th Fire, which focused on land conflicts. It introduced challenges around how Indigenous communities negotiate equitable business deals with companies who wish to extract their natural resources. It showed viewers how inequitable deals can lead to poverty-like conditions on reserves, and showed the pros and cons of running Indigenous communities like businesses in the first place.
Intrigued by the unique problems faced by Indigenous communities, I returned the following week to watch the final episode on the topic of solutions and the future of reconciliation. It spoke to the importance of bringing education to reserves as a means of social mobility. In the episode, Penny Smoke, a student of First Nations University in Manitoba said, “Today, education is our buffalo,” referencing how education has become an invaluable commodity in Indigenous communities.
Wab Kinew, the host of 8th Fire, said, “Youth play a large role in making things better, they’re more open and confident than ever.” The documentary further discussed the need for young Indigenous students to have role models who have pursued higher education.
I caught up with Indigenous affairs coordinator Doreen Richard after the final film and asked her what the future of reconciliation will look like on campus. She expressed that we should not rush the process, stating the importance of “going slow enough that it works.” She paused for a moment and continued, “If you go too fast and you make mistakes, it’s like going backwards.”
This film series is an excellent first step. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on reconciliation, it is a topic with which our generation will have to contend. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the true scope of the problem, its sources and its effects on Canadian society. The library has access to a whole host of documentaries on Indigenous issues. The series will continue to run every Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in the library theatre.
“We can only start with what we have here,” Richard further elaborated. “You have to start with self. And here at the University, people need to learn about what reconciliation is and what it’s supposed to look like. So we have to start with spreading the word here. We have to start decolonizing our university.”