Monday, December 03, 2018


Years ago during a Native American Day, Blackfeet version at BCC, people were encouraged to bring favourite video films about Native Americans so they could be played end-to-end all day.  Naturally "Warparty" showed up because it was filmed here and considered politically happy to endorse injustice against indigenous young men.  I think the Raquel Welch fantasy was shown, but I didn't see it.

I was very proud to have nabbed a copy of "The Fast Runner."  I imagined getting some creds from the hardcore political guys who insisted on pure authentic indigenous material.  No whites.

"Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Inuktitut: ᐊᑕᓈᕐᔪᐊᑦ) is a 2001 Canadian epic film directed by Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk and produced by his company Isuma Igloolik Productions. It was the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language.
Set in the ancient past, the film retells an Inuit legend passed down through centuries of oral tradition. It revolves around the title character, whose marriage with his two wives earns him the animosity of the son of the band leader, who kills Atanarjuat's brother and forces Atanarjuat to flee by foot."

At the following link is more detail.  The movie was very much praised.

Alas, the tough guys only lasted about ten minutes watching the film.  It moved slowly, you had to READ because of the subtitles since no one here spoke Inuit, there were no car crashes, sex scenes, and so on -- all the things these guys were used to, since they mostly watched television late at night without following the plot.  That is, maybe the movie was ancient and authentic, but their minds were quite modern and conditioned by Hollywood.

I wondered what the moviemakers were up to now -- surely there wasn't just one vid and that was the end.  The next step is reviewed here:  "Inuit Cree Reconciliation."

First, shown in black-and-white, the movie re-enacts the incident told about, a first gesture of peace between Peoples so much like each other that they competed for the same land.  Then the movie moves to colour and the action is the producers traveling to the place where this incident occurred and then acting it out ceremonially with representatives of both Peoples.  In the process, the images vividly show how these people are in modern times and how much they share between them.  How little they have changed -- how much they have changed.

One of the funniest little things to note is a t-shirt that said, "Got Walrus?"  Not only is advertising reaching them, but they share the same indigenous appreciation of jokes.  Two examples of bannock were demonstrated.  First was the dough wrapped around a stick and held over a fire to bake, which is how you do it without a frying pan or oil.  Second was little dabs fried over a camp stove in not-much oil held by a sooty aluminum pot not much bigger than a cup.  It was done in same way we do it now, but if you have to carry everything in and out personally, you don't go "grand."

Processing of food meant pots, esp. tea heating kettles, being blackened -- why would you use water for scrubbing?  But gleaming new knives, big enough to be dangerous.  Still, the best tools for cleaning fish were clearly human fingers, feeling where to go inside the creatures and sliding under bits to be pulled out.  Smoke comes along where ever there is cooking, even with the little folding Coleman camp stoves.  I remember the smell of those from decades ago.

Shelter here is tents at night.  Transportation in this case is boats, maybe canoes with outboard motors, and that means big waterproofing garbage bags, package after package in slippery dark green with little bows of red ties on top.  But as the narrator says in English -- the only one of the several languages that I understood -- is that everyone's most universal response to the land was to go apart and look across the expanse as far as possible.  It is the way of people everywhere who live on vast flat spaces: tundra, desert, grassland, sea.  They seem to look beyond time.

Most of the people, except Neil Diamond (Cree) and Zacharias Kunuk (Inut) the producers, were plainly from a sturdy compact Chinese genome base.  In contrast, the old tribal people around Lake Baikal in Russia often look to me like tall, lean Blackfeet.  

In the ceremonial audience were ladies in plaid shawls as well as sealskin traditional clothing.  Those elders who needed to sit were provided with folding lawn chairs set up on the grass in a row.  

Quoting from the Globe and Mail story:  "One of their first stops was a divided community at the mouth of the Great Whale River, where Inuit and Cree settlements have separate governments, schools and services. The town has two names, Kuujjuaraapik (Inuktitut) and Whapmagoostui (Cree) and even visibly different roads – gravel on the Cree side, asphalt on the Inuit. There is enough residual enmity that people in the area convened in 2011 for a ceremony initiated by Cree trapper Ron Sheshamush to try to heal the rift once and for all.

"Inuit Cree Reconciliation, the 45-minute film Kunuk and Diamond made about the war and its modern-day aftermath, spans at least three centuries and three languages (Cree, Inuktitut and English). It brings to life a chapter of northern history that's scarcely known elsewhere, in the stunningly beautiful places where it occurred. The film also gives pride of place to the way First Nations retain their history, through stories handed down by elders. This is a real indigenous documentary, if that word even applies to a project so grounded in oral culture."

Inuit Cree Reconciliation is streaming free in HD at


Chas Clifton said...

I loved "The Fast Runner," but then I am used to watching movies in Furrin with subtitles. Thanks for the link to the new movie.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

This links to a program for Inuit kids to prevent sucide by teaching them the old ways of surviving. The principle is valid everywhere.

Prairie Mary