This film is about my attempt to reconnect with my community. Specifically to connect with the women of this community. Some people feel shame for what has happened to their Indigenous relations. I can only feel pride and determination. Under the threat of extermination our people have survived. Because of the decisions our ancestors made, we are alive today. In Rapid Lake the language is alive, the culture is alive, and the people continue to walk in the ways of their grand-parents. They know the language of the land. They are fighting to stay alive. They won’t give up and sign away their rights and their connection to the land, regardless of what the government does to them. I need to be a part of that. I need my son to know who he is and why these people are so important.
I grew up in Toronto but spent my summers in Rapid Lake. Over the years the connection between me and my community became tenuous at best. My father passed away when I was 18 and since then most of the family in Rapid Lake who I was familiar with also passed away. I was in my early thirties before I came back to the community. By then I was a stranger.
Since then I have returned sporadically, mainly to visit extended family based not on the reserve but located in a small hunting camp they call Kokomville. I have watched from a distance while the federal and provincial governments have undermined the Algonquins rights and forcefully extracted their land, their lumber, and the territory they need to survive.
Keeping and maintaining a connection to the community has always been important to me but, now that I have a son strengthening that connection is vital. My parents, grandparents and ancestors maintained their link to this territory. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have a relationship with this land. I need my son to learn this knowledge and pass it on to his children. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are an endangered people. If we don’t consciously decide to keep the connection to this land, the culture will be lost. The people will eventually be gone, just like the forest is gone.
My name is Liam, I live in Aylmer, I'm 14 years old, I'm Cree-Algonquin. During our trip to rapid lake we participated traditional activities. We went out into the bush near lake Landron, we were all fishing for walleye. The rods were giving us trouble, they kept getting tangled up and the string wasn't working very well, but we finally pulled through and started to fish. I threw my minnow into the water and it took awhile before the rod finally felt like it was alive. I quickly reacted and started to reel it in, I was feeling excited about catching a fish. So I pulled it in, and out came a 4 pound walleye. We cleaned it and ate it, It was good! A couple of days later we heard that a moose had been caught and we went over to film it being cleaned and skinned. The person who caught the moose invited us into have lunch with them. We ate walleye, fried banac, moose meat, rice mixed with soy, plain rice mixed together. My favorite was the walleye. This trip was a very informative and overall fun experience.
My experience here in rapid lake working with Wapikoni has been awesome, i've learned a lot about the women of rapid lake and their views on what has to be done in order to keep our culture alive and strong for the youth of the community.
I've had a great time going to the sites and fishing with the people from rapid lake, and also eating the traditional foods they eat here on a daily basis.
It's 7.30 am. Monique, Liam, Iphi and I are in the kitchen of our lodge where we are staying and living together for the last 5 days (we are a nice little family) and preparing breakfast. Soon Kotina will come and then we all sit all around the table (with Luka, the little dog waiting under the table that hoefully someone drops food), and we discuss the program of today's shooting, we exchange our ideas about the structure of Monique's film, everyone shares his/her ideas for the soundtrack (guess what? we will do a jam session with the metallic structure of the dam building that give us a great metallic sound), we put together our visions for the content of the film ... every day that we work and live together has so many of these moments of mutual inspiration, of mutual creative nourishment. Later on we will set our for the shooting, we meet with strong, inspirational women from the community, we listen to their knowledge, how much they care for their community, how their stand up and defend the land and the culture ... we listen a lot, we learn so much. We share wonderful, precious moments with the families of the community on the land, taking part in traditional activities, participate in sturgeon fishing, walleye fishing, watching skinning the moose and butchering moose meet and sharing traditional food (fried bannick, with walleye and moose meat). The research process for the film, the artistic and creative work together, the training on the camera, the work together on the sound – we enjoy every step of the film process, we live to the fullest every moment, every encounter here. An unforgettable experience. I can't wait to come back … miigwetch, Dankeschön!
Listening. Always listening. After eight years as a trainer-filmmaker, I reinvented my presence in a team. We first evaluate what the needs are. Who are we? Where we are - physically, mentally, spiritually - What are we doing here? The team that we compose is new. We must tame it.
The road was talkative. The projects run off the pace of the changing landscape. We sat at the lodge Cabonga, outfitter located right next to Rapid Lake. When Monique and Liam, her 14 year old son (later I ask him what he would do during the coming week and he will answer without hesitation: "coding"), arrived Wednesday night, Thora and me are already in bed. I get up the next morning, I meet them wearing moccasins. Thursday night, I have the impression that we've known for some time. The ideas shared at lunch inspire us and guide our decisions for the entire workshop. Soon, Monique’s quest emerges. It is about strength, women, cohabitation, knowledge of the territory. Monique reconnects with her roots over her encounters with people of the community. She shared all this with Liam, who is very caring with the equipment. Katina and Thora explores the image and the sound. Between the creation of the short film and broader research goals, we seek balance. Slide the big toe in Rapid Lake is to surrender to a branched stories just as endless as exciting. And we are all each others guides.
I like the smell, I like the food, I like the attention I get from so many people, and I got off of my lease... bark bark bark wuff wuff wuff...