Vital moments in Indigenous history; Historica releases ‘Minutes’


Behind the scenes on “Naskumituwin (Treaty), the new Heritage Minute from Historica Canada.

Historica Canada is releasing a pair of new Minutes that explore vital moments in Indigenous history: treaty-making and residential schools. The Minutes highlight darker chapters of Canadian history and come a year after the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The release is a ground-breaking addition to its Heritage Minute collection,

“If Canada is going to move towards reconciliation then we have to engage in some hard truths about residential schools and treaties,” said Shane Belcourt, director of the two Minutes, in Toronto on June 21. “We had so much to say about the issues but only one minute. My hope is these Minutes lend themselves to a larger dialogue.”

Chanie Wenjack

Davin Bomberry as “Chanie Wenjack” in Historica Canada’s new Heritage Minute on residential schools.

“As a country, we advance by learning from lessons of our past, both good and bad,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. “In this case, the path to reconciliation begins with education – acknowledging past wrongs to Indigenous people and working to make things right.”

“Chanie Wenjack” tells the story of a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in 1966. Wenjack (known as Chanie to his family, but historically as Charlie) died shortly into his journey. His death sparked the first inquiry into the conditions faced by residential school students. Wenjack’s sister, Pearl Achneepineskum, herself a survivor of residential school, shares the story in her own voice.

“Naskumituwin (Treaty)” tells the story of the signing of Treaty 9 through the eyes of a historical witness,George Spence. Spence, an 18-year-old Cree from Albany, James Bay, witnessed the treaty signing at Fort Albany on August 3, 1905. In the oral history tradition, Spence passed the story of the treaty signing down through his family. His great-granddaughter, Rosary Spence, shares the story as she inherited it.

The Heritage Minutes were produced by Historica Canada and Toronto-based Wabunganung Film Company Ltd. They were written by acclaimed author Joseph Boyden. Boyden and filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin provide the iconic end narration for “Wenjack” and “Treaty”, respectively.

These Heritage Minutes were made possible through funding from the Ontario government. Historica Canada thanks Porter Airlines for its generous donation of travel vouchers for this project. Historica Canada is the country’s largest organization dedicated to enhancing awareness of Canadian history and citizenship. – CNW

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