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Amazing Spirit Productions, 1989
VHS cassette, 93:00 min., $149.00
Distributed by Magic Lantern Communications, Unit #38,775 Pacific Road, Oakville, Ontario L6L 6M4

Grades 8 and up/ Ages 13 and up
Reviewed by David Chadwick.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

This Canadian feature film first ran on CBC television over a year ago, when it understandably generated a great deal of controversy.

A frank and haunting portrayal of the Indian residential school system, the film has become increasingly topical. In the long year since it was released, awareness of abuse at residential schools has changed from an occasional whisper to common knowledge.

Set in a British Columbia residential school in 1937, the film depicts the brutal attempts to assimilate Indian children into white society. Twelve-year-old and younger children are forcibly taken from their home reserves and then arbitrarily put in either Anglican or Catholic residential schools, where they are given English names and beaten if they speak their native lan­guage.

The object of the schools was not education but to take the children away from their parents so that they would lose their identity as aboriginal people. The school in the film went so far as to tell one of the children that her parents had died and later told the parents that their children were not at the school.

By destroying the children's roots, those who ran the schools expected that these children would become white Indians. Instead, the schools led directly to the breakdown of traditional families and the despair and resulting violence that have tragically become common on so many reserves. Over a million children were subjected to these schools, a blight that only now is beginning to be examined by mainstream society.

Buffy St. Marie composed the haunting score for this beautiful and disturbing film. One wants to believe it is fiction and not our own history.

Recommended for all school boards. The Canada on display here is not one we can be proud of but one that Canadi­ans need to understand.

David Chadwick, Winnipeg, Man.
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