In the beautifully shot and attitude-shaking four-part docu-series, individuals from
11 First Peoples offer their side of history and their hopes for a decolonized future
TELLING OUR STORY
an insightful docu-series directed by Kim O’Bomsawin
Begins Streaming on Gem Sept. 17
Across Canada (FREE)
Five centuries is a lot of one-sided history to correct. The four-part docu-series Telling Our Story accepts the challenge by casting a wide net of Indigenous diversity, territory and stories.
Following its world premiere of the first two episodes at the Toronto International Film Festival, Terre Innue – an Indigenous production company founded in Mani-Utenam 2010 – is proud to announce that its four-part docu-series Telling Our Story, will begin streaming across Canada on Gem Sept. 17.
The series is directed by Kim O’Bomsawin (Winner of the Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary program at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards for Quiet Killing/Ce silence qui tue), and is produced by Francine Allaire, with the indigenous production company Terre Innue, of which O’Bomsawin is the President.
In the words of narrator Kaniehtiio Horn, “The time has come to speak out, to decolonize history and to celebrate the beauty of our cultures.”
“To be able to present our series in one of the most influential and important international festivals in the world represents for us an immense honor and reward,” said producer Francine Allaire and director Kim O’Bomsawin. “This is an homage to the hundred Indigenous women, men and youth who put their trust in us to share their stories.”
Telling Our Story does this from page one of the history books, the notion that the First Nations were “discovered.” In a sardonic look back, we’re told that the Europeans were the ones who were discovered, starving on their boats, with Jacques Cartier losing 11 men to scurvy before being given a vitamin-laden conifer tea by Iroquois Chief Donnacona.
From this starting point, turning history right-side up, Telling Our Story connects beautiful natural scenery with tales and traditions and eloquent and charismatic protagonists from 11 First Peoples – 11 cultures speaking 11 different languages – who inhabited what’s now Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. They are: Abenaki, Anishinaabe, Atikamekw, Cree of Eeyou Istchee, Innu, Inuit, Kanien’kehá:ka, Mi’kmaq, Naskapi, Huron-Wendat and Wolastoqiyik.
Their stories are, in turn, heart-warming, heartbreaking and hopeful. We learn of the community process of turning ash wood into baskets – once a source of income for the Abenaki of Odanak, an almost lost art that the community’s youth are engaged in reviving and perpetuating the tradition. We see pride on the faces of Inuk throat singers Lisa and Anesie, demonstrating “voices that nobody else has in the world.”
We see the dark side of history, from the Residential Schools, to the Cold War transfer of Inuk to all-but-uninhabitable Arctic locales like Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, where starvation awaited. There was the government’s mass killing of sled dogs as “strays” from the ‘50s- to the ‘70s.
And then, the languages, presented by their speakers in almost musical form, full of metaphor and poetry, and preserved by a generation of children and dedicated teachers. Beautifully produced, directed, designed, edited and featuring music and animation by Indigenous artists, Telling Our Story is a stunning emotional journey through the history, the values, the struggles and triumphs of First Nations and Inuit communities in Canada. The series paints a poignant and heartfelt picture of the Indigenous experience in Canada.
O’Bomsawin and her team traveled 30 000 kilometers by plane, seaplane, helicopter, train, Skidoo, canoe, car, ATV, and dog sled, filmed one hundred women and men of all generations in 30 communities. They shared their worldview, their connection to the Land, their spiritualities and millenary stories, the richness and beauty of their cultures, and their hopes for the next generations. The result is breathtakingly beautiful and deeply human and inspiring.
“On a personal level, as an Abenaki,” says director Kim O’Bomsawin, “and because of colonization and what my family has been through, I was never able to learn the stories that we will tell you. I did not get the opportunity to hear them growing up. So, this is a personal quest, as much as it is a professional quest.
“Our goal is to talk about our stories, past and present, through a modern voice, to show them in a contemporary light. Indigenous youth represent our greatest strength, our hope for the future. There are inspiring role models emerging from this new generation and I think we absolutely need to put them in the spotlight.”
Episode 1: Territory
To understand who we are, you need to appreciate the special relationship we have with the land, a vast and immense territory that we shared amongst Nations. It is an intimate and powerful bond that we want to keep alive. Let us tell you the story of the land — the beating heart of our identities, our beliefs and our traditions.
Episode 2: Identity
Our worldview is what defines us as First Peoples. It is shaped by our intimate relationship with the land and with our ancestors, our languages and our traditional knowledge. To tell you our story, we need to show you the beauty of our languages and the ingenuity of our people that has been passed on for thousands of years through our oral tradition.
Episode 3: Spirituality
Eleven First Peoples, one circular worldview, connected to all that is alive. Despite attempts made by the government and the Church to ban our rituals and ceremonies, our spiritualities live on. The plants and animals that feed us are sacred. For millennia, powerful objects and dances have been used to connect to the Creator, animal spirits, and everything around us.
Episode 4: Rebuilding
Before colonization, the 11 First Peoples had their own systems of governance in which women played a central role. Today, for future generations, they are tackling universal issues including ecology, discrimination, governance, and food sovereignty. This fight is critical. Our philosophy is simple: make every political decision with a view to its impact on the next seven generations. This principle guided our ancestors and is why we are still here today to perpetuate it. Now, it will help us confront a global environmental crisis.
Telling Our Story is made possible through the support of many partners, including Radio-Canada and CBC, the Canada Media Fund, the Québecor Fund, SODEC (Société de développement des entreprises culturelles, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Rogers Documentary Fund, the Société du Plan Nord, the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Premières Nations et les Inuit, Off the Fence B.V. , the Québec tax credit and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Special thanks to our sponsors; Air Inuit, Quartz.Co, Musique Nomade, Pourvoiries Moisie-Nipissis and Haute Moisie.
Telling Our Story is produced by Terre Innue, in association with CBC Docs. For CBC, Sally Catto General Manager, Entertainment, Factual, & Sports; Jennifer Dettman Executive Director, Unscripted Content; Sandra Kleinfeld Senior Director, Documentary.
Worldwide distribution is by Off The Fence B.V.
About Kim O’Bomsawin
Abenaki, Kim O’Bomsawin completed a master’s degree in sociology before embarking on a career as a filmmaker-documentarist, which earned her numerous awards. Exploring the universe of the First Peoples is what motivates her approach.
Her first film La ligne rouge (2014) is a medium-length documentary on young Aboriginal hockey players. In 2018, she wrote and directed Ce silence qui tue/Quiet Killing, a feature documentary on the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women, which won the Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary program at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards.
For Terre Innue, she directed and scripted the documentary Teweikan Revived (2018), rewarded at the Gémeaux, as well as the feature-length documentary Call me human (Je m’appelle humain) (2020), a sensitive portrait of the Innu poet Joséphine Bacon and an exploration of her relationship with the land of her ancestors, winner of 4 Prix Gémeaux 2021, best Canadian documentary at VIFF and CIFF, the Prix collégial du Cinéma québécois 2021, and more.
President of Terre Innue and Productions Innu Assi since 2020, Kim O’Bomsawin is Executive Producer on all Terre Innue projects. She also gives lectures in schools and institutions on Indigenous cinema and on issues affecting First Peoples.
About Terre Innue
Terre Innue is an Indigenous production company founded by the late Réginald Vollant and Ian Boyd in 2010 in Mani-utenam on Quebec’s North-Shore. Its shareholders are Indigenous: Alexandre Bacon, Kim O’Bomsawin, and Florent Vollant. Terre Innue produces documentaries and fiction for all media and platforms. Its objectives are to tell stories from an Indigenous point of view, to value the cultures and languages of the First Peoples, to promote the development of an Indigenous audiovisual industry, and to ensure the apprenticeship and professional training of the next generation of Indigenous people. Its productions in film, television, radio and digital media have been acclaimed by critics and audiences and have won awards in Canada and around the world. https://www.terreinnue.com/en/productions