The People of the Kattawapiskak River

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The People of the Kattawapiskak River is a 2012 documentary film by Alanis Obomsawin exploring conditions inside the Attawapiskat First Nation, which in October 2011 declared a state of emergency due to health and safety concerns over a lack of housing and infrastructure, and remained in the public spotlight during the Idle No More protests.[1]

Obomsawin was present in the community in 2011, working on another film for the National Film Board of Canada, Hi-Ho Mistahey!, when the housing issue came to national attention.[2] The film follows the crisis up to the Federal Court of Canada decision in August 2012 that ruled the appointment of a third-party manager to fix the housing crisis was unjustified.[3] In addition to filming conditions in the community and interviewing residents, Obomsawin recounts the history of the village, which dates back to 1850 when Catholic missionaries built a chapel on the land.[4][5]

Obomsawin has stated that she uses the name "Kattawapiskak" in place of Attawapiskat in the film and its title because she believes it to be the community's correct name.[3]


Obomsawin screens her films first in the local community, a practice that she continued with The People of the Kattawapiskak River.[3]

The film's official premiere took place on the opening night of the 13th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, with Obomsawin, Chief Theresa Spence, Member of Parliament Charlie Angus, and Attawapiskat community members in attendance.[5][6][7]

It subsequently screened on November 11, 2012, as part of the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal.[4] From January 11 to 18, 2013, the National Film Board streamed the film for free on its website.[8]

On March 4, 2014, the film received the Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary program at the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards.[9]


  1. ^ Laurence, Jean-Christophe (16 November 2012). "The People of the Kattawapiskak River : Attawapiskat vue de l'intérieur". La Presse (in French). Montreal. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  2. ^ Adams, James (1 November 2013). "Hi-Ho Mistahey!: Earnest doc on native education has heart in the right place". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Wyatt, Nelson (15 November 2012). "One year later, film chronicles housing crisis on Attawapiskat reserve". Canadian Press. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b Dunlevy, T'cha (9 November 2012). "The People of the Kattawapiskak River examines a community on the edge". Montreal Gazette. Postmedia Network Inc. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b Nahwegahbow, Barb. "Meet "The People of the Kattawapiskak River"". Windspeaker. Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  6. ^ Vlessing, Etan (19 September 2012). "Alanis Obomsawin doc to open ImagineNATIVE film festival". Playback. Brunico Communications. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  7. ^ "ImagineNATIVE opens with Alanis Obomsawin's distinctive lens". CBC News. 18 October 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  8. ^ Dunlevy, T'cha (11 January 2013). "NFB streams Alanis Obomsawin's The People of the Kattawapiskak River for free". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  9. ^ "CBC wins at Canadian Screen Awards". CBC News. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014.

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