Residential school experiences recounted in documentary film presentation Thursday

Our Voices, Our Stories, at the K’ómoks Band Hall Thursday

  • Nov. 30, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Our Voices, Our Stories, a new film by renowned director Barbara Cranmer that exposes Canada’s brutal residential school history, will be shown at the K’ómoks Band Hall (3320 Comox Rd.) Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

The film recently won Best Documentary Short at the 40th Annual American Indian Film Festival.

An estimated 9,200 children passed through the doors of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C. between 1929 and 1975. Numbers replaced their names, their aboriginal languages were forbidden, family ties broken and histories denied. Scores of children died at the school, many were abused and many never returned to their families; following generations continue to be fractured by the horrors of the colonial government and church mandated residential school systems.

Our Voices, Our Stories features the powerful accounts of residential school survivors including Evelyn Voyageur, Margaret Wilson, Edward Dawson, Hank Nelson, Bobby Joseph, Mary Speck, Stan Humchitt, Stanley Hunt and Janice Grant, and family members Roberta Wildman, Carla Voyageur, Kodi Nelson and Jasmine Hanuse. Director Cranmer (T’lakwagilogwa) is a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation and lived in Alert Bay.

During a special ceremony for the residential school survivors in the ‘Namgis ‘bighouse’, the film records the poignant words of the late Chief Frank Nelson: “Let the healing begin…Now we can look proudly at our children and know they will never be taken away from us again.”

In 2015, an important step was taken towards healing for coastal First Nation communities when the looming old Anglican school building was finally demolished. St. Michael’s brick walls tumbled down as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada prepared its comprehensive call to action ‘to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.’ Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has pledged to act on the TRC recommendations, in particular to immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and end chronic underfunding of First Nations education. Five of Cranmer’s previous films have also been honoured with AIFF top awards or nominations.

There will be a dance performance after the screening. Admission is by donation. For more information, contact Ramona Johnson at 250-339-7702.

Watch the Our Voices, Our Stories film trailer at vimeo.com/141833166