Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) chronicles the Attawapiskat First Nations campaign to draw global attention to the Canadian government’s shocking neglect of Aboriginal youth education.
For more than forty years, internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin has given voice to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples. A member of the Abenaki Nation, Obomsawin makes documentaries that are vital chronicles of the dismantling of indigenous culture and battles with dominant society. Hi-Ho Mistahey!, her latest film, explores a shocking and saddening disparity: First Nations communities receive significantly lower levels of school funding and education than the rest of the country.
The Attawapiskat First Nation closed their elementary school in 2000 due to toxic land contamination. Since then, students have been learning in chilly rundown portables infested with rodents. This has led to high teacher turnover (one year twelve teachers left) and a list of other problems. Frustrated by unfulfilled promises of a new school by the government, the late Shannen Koostachin began one of the largest-ever youth-driven movements, now called "Shannen's Dream," which pressed for safe, comfortable schools and culturally based, equitable education for aboriginal students. Hi-Ho Mistahey! chronicles this campaign, culminating in a delegation of six First Nations youth ambassadors presenting in Geneva to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
A master of capturing irony and
injustice, Obomsawin reveals startling
facts. For example, under Canada's federal
Department of Indian Affairs, school
funding is not protected and can easily be
redirected to pay for community roadwork
or litigation. Historically, Canada's treatment
of its indigenous population has been
shameful to say the least, and though there
has been progress in recent years, Hi-Ho
Mistahey! is a testament to the amount of
change still needed. Obomsawin's latest
film is one of her best, a searing criticism
of government oversight told compassionately
and with an unyielding message: all
children deserve the chance to succeed.
AGATA SMOLUCH DEL SORBO