You Are on Indian Land

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You Are on Indian Land
Directed by Mort Ransen
Produced by George C. Stoney
Starring Mike Mitchell
Cinematography Tony Ianzelo
Edited by Kathleen Shannon
Release dates
Running time
36 min 48 s
Country Canada

You Are on Indian Land is a 1969 documentary film about the confrontation between police and Mohawk of the St. Regis Reservation on a bridge between Canada and the United States, which stands on Mohawk land near Cornwall, Ontario.

By blocking traffic from the bridge, the Mohawk sought to call attention to their grievance that they were prohibited by Canadian authorities from duty-free passage of personal purchases across the border. They claimed this right as part of their right of free passage across the border, as established by the 1794 Jay Treaty between Great Britain and the United States after the latter gained independence in the American Revolutionary War.[1] The film portrayed the rising activism of the Mohawk and demands for self-determination, which has continued.

Mike Mitchell[edit]

You Are on Indian Land was produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) as part of its Challenge for Change series. Mort Ransen is credited as director, but he says that he worked collaboratively with Mike Mitchell, a Saint Regis Mohawk who is an activist, filmmaker and the featured narrator of the film. At the time, Mitchell was part of the NFB’s "Indian Film Crew", a training program for First Nations filmmakers. He brought the impending protest to the attention of the NFB.[1][2]

Knowing that negotiations were faltering, Mitchell asked George C. Stoney, the Challenge for Change executive producer, for an NFB film crew when Natives planned to block the international bridge. Stoney moved quickly to pull a film team together. Ransen agreed to direct after learning that no Native directors were available, and said that he would collaborate with Mitchell. Ransen credited Mitchell and Kathleen Shannon, Studio D founder, with the film's final edit.[2]

Afterward, Mitchell worked with the Challenge for Change project for several more years before leaving filmmaking and the NFB to become more involved with First Nations issues. He was elected to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in 1982. Two years later, he was elected as its Grand Chief, serving from 1984 to 2002.[2]

Indian Film Crew[edit]

The Indian Film Crew was formed at the NFB's Montreal headquarters in 1968, as part of the Challenge for Change program to attract more First Nations people into filmmaking. The program was jointly sponsored by the Company of Young Canadians and the Department of Indian Affairs. After five months' training about various aspects of filmmaking, participants worked on community development projects and research for future films.[3] A documentary was also made about the effort to increase aboriginal representation in filmmaking. [3]


  1. ^ a b "You Are on Indian Land". Curator's comments. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Honarpisheh, Farbod. "You Are On Indian Land". In Jerry White. The Cinema of Canada. London: Wallflower Press. pp. 81–89. ISBN 1-904764-60-6. 
  3. ^ a b Cardinal, Gil. "The Aboriginal Voice: the National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 

External links[edit]