Indigenous Languages Playlist

Indigenous Languages Playlist

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) —“in order to raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people that speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world’s rich cultural diversity” (UNESCO IYIL2019 website).

In Canada alone, approximately 230,000 Indigenous people currently speak one or more of the 60 dialects within the 12 linguistic families; most of these languages have been listed by UNESCO as either vulnerable or endangered, some critically—including several dialects of Inuktitut, which became the official language of the Northwest Territories, Labrador, and the territories now known as Nunavut in 1984. Not only does language play an important role in identity, knowledge, and culture, it also plays a critical role in passing on cultural knowledge and traditions.

In 2015, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission drew attention to the ways in which Indigenous languages had been threatened by the genocidal actions of the residential school system. The TRC also created “94 Calls to Action” to address the legacy of the Residential School system including the loss of languages.

The National Film Board of Canada is committed to contributing to the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages through the creation and re-release of Indigenous-language versions of select films from our Indigenous collection. The films in this playlist are offered in several Indigenous languages: Inuktitut, Nakota (Assiniboine), Kanien'ké:ha (Mohawk), Cree, and Atikamekw. They are also available in English. We hope these films will be a useful tool for teachers and language learners.

Join us in celebrating Indigenous languages with this rich playlist of NFB films!

  • Xúsum (Salish Version)
    2009|4 min

    Accompanied by a song in the Lil̓wat7úl language, we follow a woman as she makes gwùshum, a Líl̓wat dessert and a very special treat. From the harvesting of the xúsum (soapberries or salmonberries) to the construction of the corn-husk whisk, a dish is created that is equal measures mouthwatering and awe-inspiring.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Salmon - Tsúqwaoz' (Salish Version)
    2009|3 min

    Expert fishers for their entire lives, Líl̓wat Elders Cora and Daniel Wells share their deep knowledge of salmon fishing, cleaning and smoking.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Farming - Lep'cál (Salish Version)
    2009|1 min

    The farming practices of residents of the Líl̓wat Nation near Mount Currie, B.C., are presented in a series of snapshots that illustrate the fertility of their territory and the people’s deep connection to their land.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Puberty Part 1 - Kwaozán'tsut ti pál7a 1 (Salish Version)
    2009|14 min

    An intimate portrait of Marie Leo, a Sto:lo woman who was adopted into a Líl̓wat family as a baby. Marie’s gentle narrative of her remarkable early childhood demonstrates a deep connection to culture, land and family that continues to endure.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Puberty Part 2 - Kwaozán'tsut ti án'wasa 2 (Salish Version)
    2009|17 min

    Elder Marie Leo recounts her experiences going through puberty. Growing up on the Líl̓wat Nation near Mount Currie, B.C., Marie details the important process of preparing for womanhood. The various tasks and duties she undertakes demonstrate a complex, beautiful journey a young Líl̓wat person undergoes as they welcome adulthood and increased responsibilities.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Mount Currie Summer Camp - Pipántsek swa7 Its7a l'íl'wata (Salish Version)
    2009|5 min

    In a series of playful portraits, Líl̓wat children and youth go about their daily duties at the community’s summer camp outside Mount Currie, B.C. Infused with a sense of love, togetherness and pride, this short documentary is a remarkable visual archive of a Líl̓wat community through the beautiful faces of their young people.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Basket - Lhk'wál'us (Salish Version)
    2009|7 min

    A series of still images follows master Líl̓wat basket maker Mathilda Jim, from the harvesting of materials to the creation of a functional work of art. Told in the Lil̓wat7úl language, this short documentary evokes the powerful connection between language, knowledge and culture.

    This short is part of the L’il’wata series. In the early 1970s, at the outset of her documentary career, Alanis Obomsawin visited the Líl̓wat Nation, an Interior Salish First Nation in British Columbia, and created a series of shorts that provide personal narratives about Líl̓wat culture, histories and knowledge.

  • Three Thousand (Inuktitut Version)
    2017|14 min

    In this short film, Inuk artist Asinnajaq plunges us into a sublime imaginary universe—14 minutes of luminescent, archive-inspired cinema that recast the present, past and future of her people in a radiant new light. Diving into the NFB’s vast archive, she parses the complicated cinematic representation of the Inuit, harvesting fleeting truths and fortuitous accidents from a range of sources—newsreels, propaganda, ethnographic docs, and work by Indigenous filmmakers. Embedding historic footage into original animation, she conjures up a vision of hope and beautiful possibility.

  • Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance (Mohawk Version)
    1993|1 h 59 min

    In July 1990, a dispute over a proposed golf course to be built on Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) lands in Oka, Quebec, set the stage for a historic confrontation that would grab international headlines and sear itself into the Canadian consciousness. Director Alanis Obomsawin—at times with a small crew, at times alone—spent 78 days behind Kanien’kéhaka lines filming the armed standoff between protestors, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. Released in 1993, this landmark documentary has been seen around the world, winning over a dozen international awards and making history at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it became the first documentary ever to win the Best Canadian Feature award. Jesse Wente, Director of Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office, has called it a “watershed film in the history of First Peoples cinema.”

  • History of Manawan - Part One - Atisokan nte Manawanik nistam kenokok (Atikamekw Version)
    2009|20 min

    “It’s not how it used to be.” The words of Cézar Néwashish resonate throughout this short documentary that explores the history of the Atikamekw community of Manawan, Quebec. Less than a century old in name, Manawan embodies the experiences of so many Indigenous communities across Canada. Where once they practised their customs freely on a vast territory, the arrival of the Europeans would eventually mean the restriction of their cultural practices and confinement to a reserve named Manawan.

  • History of Manawan - Part Two - Atisokan nte Manawanik minowach kenokok (Atikamekw Version)
    2009|21 min

    Atikamekw elder Cézar Néwashish continues to recount the history of the community of Manawan that first began in The History of Manawan: Part One. As Christianity and European customs take deeper root in the community – abetted by residential schools and aggressive assimilationist government policies – seemingly irreversible changes to significant customs begin to unfold. Despite these struggles, the people carry on. This short is part of the Manawan series directed by Alanis Obomsawin.

  • Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths (Inuktitut Version)
    2010|1 h 8 min

    This feature documentary offers an overview of the changes experienced by the Inuit from 1950-1970 with their loss of sled dogs and semi-nomadic lifestyle. A controversial issue at the time, many Inuit still believe that their dogs were deliberately killed by the RCMP as part of government policy to force them off the land and into "civilization." Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths explores how and why the sled dogs disappeared, a mystery that has left deep wounds across Canada's Arctic.

  • The People of the Kattawapiskak River - Katawapiskak Sipiwi Ininiwak (Cree Version)
    2013|50 min

    The people of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a Cree community in northern Ontario, were thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when the impoverished living conditions on their reserve became an issue of national debate. With The People of the Kattawapiskak River, Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin quietly attends as community members tell their own story, shedding light on a history of dispossession and official indifference. “Obomsawin’s main objective is to make us see the people of Attawapiskat differently,” said Robert Everett-Green in The Globe & Mail. “The emphasis, ultimately, is not so much on looking as on listening—the first stage in changing the conversation, or in making one possible.” Winner of the 2013 Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary, the film is part of a cycle of films that Obomsawin has made on children’s welfare and rights.

  • Nowhere Land (Inuktitut Version)
    2015|15 min

    This short documentary serves as a quiet elegy for way of life, which exists now only in the memories of those who experienced it. Bonnie Ammaaq and her family remember it vividly. When Bonnie was a little girl, her parents packed up their essentials, bundled her and her younger brother onto a long, fur-lined sled and left the government-manufactured community of Igloolik to live off the land as had generations of Inuit before them.

  • Breaths (Inuktitut Version)
    2016|4 min

    In this evocative short documentary, Inuk singer-songwriter and humanitarian Susan Aglukark weaves together stories of artistry, family, and belonging as she explores the complex cultural shifts of the last 50 years of Inuit life. Turning her lens on the turbulence of colonial transition, director Nyla Innuksuk examines the forces that shaped Aglukark's voice and how that voice is now being translated for a new generation of Inuit artists.

    Produced by the National Film Board of Canada in co-operation with the National Arts Centre and the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation on the occasion of the 2016 Governor General's Performing Arts Awards.

  • To Wake Up the Nakota Language (Nakota Version)
    2017|6 min

    “When you don’t know your language or your culture, you don’t know who you are,” says 69-year-old Armand McArthur, one of the last fluent Nakota speakers in Pheasant Rump First Nation, Treaty 4 territory, in southern Saskatchewan. Through the wisdom of his words, Armand is committed to revitalizing his language and culture for his community and future generations.