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The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) —“in order to raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people that speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world’s rich cultural diversity” (UNESCO IYIL2019 website).
In Canada alone, approximately 230,000 Indigenous people currently speak one or more of the 60 dialects within the 12 linguistic families; most of these languages have been listed by UNESCO as either vulnerable or endangered, some critically—including several dialects of Inuktitut, which became the official language of the Northwest Territories, Labrador, and the territories now known as Nunavut in 1984. Not only does language play an important role in identity, knowledge, and culture, in Indigenous cultures the mother tongue also preserves and passes on these traditions.
In 2015, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission explained to Canadians and the world that Indigenous languages had been threatened by the genocidal actions of the residential school system. The TRC also created “94 Calls to Action” to address the loss of languages.
The National Film Board of Canada has heard and responded to the “calls to action.” We are committed to playing our part in the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages through the creation and re-release of Indigenous-language versions of films in our Indigenous collection, which speak eloquently of the essential relationship between Indigenous peoples and their languages. The films in our playlist are offered in several Indigenous languages: Inuktitut, Nakota (Assiniboine), Mohawk, Cree, and Atikamekw. Watch with us, listen and learn with us, and you will hear some of the most beautiful languages in the world.
Join us in celebrating Indigenous languages with this rich playlist of NFB films!
Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance (Mohawk Version)
In July 1990, a dispute over a proposed golf course to be built on Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) lands in Oka, Quebec, set the stage for a historic confrontation that would grab international headlines and sear itself into the Canadian consciousness. Director Alanis Obomsawin—at times with a small crew, at times alone—spent 78 days behind Kanien’kéhaka lines filming the armed standoff between protestors, the Quebec police and the Canadian army.
Atisokan nte Manawanik nistam kenokok
An account of how settler civilization has invaded Indigenous peoples’ lives, governed their hunting, trapping, and fishing, confined them to reserves, and made it difficult to pursue traditional ways of life. César Néwashish recounts how his grandfather Louis Néwashish founded Manawan.
Atisokan nte Manawanik minowach kenokok
A continuation of History of Manowan: Part 1. Discusses the death of Indian customs, independence and dignity, with the advent of the white society.
Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths (Inuktitut Version)
This feature documentary offers an overview of the changes experienced by the Inuit from 1950-1970 with their loss of sled dogs and semi-nomadic lifestyle. A controversial issue at the time, many Inuit still believe that their dogs were deliberately killed by the RCMP as part of government policy to force them off the land and into “civilization.”
Katawapiskak Sipiwi Ininiwak
The people of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a Cree community in northern Ontario, were thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when the impoverished living conditions on their reserve became an issue of national debate.
Nowhere Land (Inuktitut Version)
This short documentary is a quiet elegy for the ancestral Inuit way of life, which exists now only in the memories of those who experienced it. Bonnie Ammaaq and her family remember it vividly.
Breaths (Inuktitut Version)
In this evocative short, Inuit singer-songwriter and humanitarian Susan Aglukark weaves together stories of artistry, family, and belonging as she explores the complex cultural shifts of the last 50 years of Inuit life.
Three Thousand (Inuktitut Version)
In this short film, Inuk artist Asinnajaq plunges us into a sublime imaginary universe—14 minutes of luminescent, archive-inspired cinema that recast the present, past and future of her people in a radiant new light.
To Wake Up the Nakota Language (Nakota Version)
“When you don’t know your language or your culture, you don’t know who you are,” says 69-year-old Armand McArthur, one of the last fluent Nakota speakers in Pheasant Rump First Nation, Treaty 4 territory, in southern Saskatchewan. Through the wisdom of his words, Armand is committed to revitalizing his language and culture for his community and future generations.
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