Where the Spirit Lives

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Where the Spirit Lives
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bruce Pittman
Produced by Heather Haldane
Eric Jordan
Mary Young Leckie
Written by Keith Ross Leckie
Starring Michelle St. John
Kim Bruisedhead Fox
Music by Buffy Sainte-Marie
Cinematography Rene Ohashi
Edited by Michael Todd
Distributed by Amazing Spirit Productions Ltd.
Running time
96 min.
Country CanadaCanada
Language English

Where the Spirit Lives (1989) is a drama film about Aboriginal children in Canada being taken from their tribes to attend residential schools for assimilation into majority culture. Written by Keith Ross Leckie and directed by Bruce Pittman, it aired on CBC Television in 1989.

The film starred Michelle St. John as Amelia, a young First Nations girl captured and confined to the residential school system of the 1930s. The system was an attempt to have aboriginal youth to assimilate into the majority European-Canadian culture. Amelia resists assimilation and plans her escape. The film's cast includes Ann-Marie MacDonald and David Hemblen as teachers at the school.


In 1937, a young First Nations girl named Ashtoh-Komi is kidnapped along with several other children from a village as part of a Canadian policy to educate First Nations children and assimilate them into Canadian/British society. She is taken to a boarding school, where she is forced to adopt Western Euro-centric ways and learn English, often under harsh treatment. One teacher is portrayed as sympathetic and she becomes repelled by the bigotry of others at the school. She offers Ashtoh-Komi help. Forced to take the name Amelia, Ashtoh-Komi determines to hold on to her First Nations identity and encourages her younger sibling to do so as well. She plans their escape.


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