a mark

So much history can be lost if no one tells the story – so that’s what I do. I tell the stories. This is my way of fighting for social change."

Alanis Obomsawin

Photo of Alanis Obomsawin from "Waban-aki: People from Where the Sun Rises."

Award-Winning Activist and Filmmaker

A member of the Abenaki Nation, Alanis Obomsawin is an activist and award-winning filmmaker recognized internationally as one of Canada’s most distinguished Indigenous directors. Driven by a desire to uplift Indigenous voices, she has spent more than five decades producing 53 films that celebrate Indigenous heritage and chronicle the lives and concerns of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. A fierce advocate for the preservation of Indigenous culture, Obomsawin blends contemporary filmmaking methods with oral traditions passed down by her ancestors. “I am not going to make a film to please an audience,” said Obomsawin in a 2015 interview. “I make a film to make changes and to have recognition for the people.”

Obomsawin’s legendary career began with a childhood immersed in the stories and culture of the Abenaki Nation. Born in New Hampshire on Abenaki territory, Obomsawin was sent to live with relatives on the Odanak reservation in Quebec when she was just six months old. There, she learned the songs and legends of her Abenaki ancestors, establishing a deep connection to her Indigenous heritage that would define the rest of her life. Even after moving off the reserve to Trois Rivières, cut off from the Indigenous community, Obomsawin clung to the stories that shaped her childhood—and these stories have remained a central element of her creative works, such as her 2006 multi-award-winning film, Waban-aki: People from Where the Sun Rises.

In 1967, the National Film Board of Canada appointed her as a consultant for Indigenous Filmmaking, and shortly after, Obomsawin made her directorial debut with her 1971 film, Christmas at Moose Factory. Since then, Obomsawin has earned international accolades for producing films that champion Indigenous rights and give voice to those once silenced. Her many honours include 53 personal achievements, including the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media at the September 2021 Toronto International Film Festival; 18 honourary degrees and awards from prestigious universities, such as Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA; and 48 awards for 17 of her films. But more important than any award is her remarkable cinematic legacy—one that has brought Indigenous history, culture, and activism to the global stage.

Photo from “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance”

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Hi-Ho Mistahey!

In this feature-length documentary, Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Shannen’s Dream, a national campaign...

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Incident at Restigouche

In June 1981 a quiet Micmac reserve turned into a battlefield. One hundred and fifty men, and their wives and children, were invaded...

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Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger

Alanis Obomsawin's 52nd film tells the story of how the life of Jordan River Anderson initiated a battle for the right of First Nations...

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Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance

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...

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Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Metis Child

Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Metis Child is a loving tribute to the memory of a sensitive, articulate young man who finally ran out...

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Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises

With Waban-Aki: People from Where the Sun Rises, Obomsawin has come full circle, returning to the village where she was raised to craft an...

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We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

In 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint against Indian Affairs...

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Our People Will Be Healed

Our People Will Be Healed, Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th film, reveals how a Cree community in Manitoba has been enriched through the power of education...

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Trick or Treaty?

In 1905, when mining was in full swing and the national railway was being built in northern Ontario, the British Crown and the Canadian government...

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Is the Crown at War with Us?

In this feature-length documentary by Alanis Obomsawin, it's the summer of 2000 and the country watches in disbelief as federal fisheries wage war...

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The People of the Kattawapiskak River

The documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River exposes the dreadful living conditions of the Kattawapiskak Cree in Northern Ontario along...

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