A people and their land

by December 17, 2010

"Nutshimit - on the land", a film by Sarah Sandring (2010)

Guest post by Zach Kuehner

An old high school teacher of mine used to feign inspiration by scribbling the phrase, “Don’t memorize, understand” on the blackboard at the beginning of every school year. It was simple advice, but decidedly hard to follow. It still is. For instance, the 2nd Annual Indigenous Sovereignty Week, organized by the indigenous rights group Defenders of the Land, was recently held in Toronto. What struck me when reading about this event was how much information I have managed to memorize about Canada’s indigenous peoples, and how little I have really understood. It is well known that a connection to the land and to nature is of significant cultural and spiritual importance. But what does the word “connection” really mean in this context? When the Defenders of the Land chose their name, what image were they intent on projecting, what associations did they mean to call up?

Simple questions with undoubtedly complex answers, but a close approximation to such answers may come from a documentary screened at this year’s Planet in Focus, an environmental film and video festival in Toronto. In collaboration with the Mushuau Innu of Canada’s remote Labrador region, German filmmaker Sarah Sandring provides a unique look at the connection the Innu people have with the land, and explores what the preservation (or loss) of this relationship may mean for the next generation. With challenges like poverty and substance use ever-looming (the incident at Davis Inlet being the most publicized example), Nutshimit – on the land shows why the traditions of the Innu may be more important than ever to defend.

Watch a trailer of the film here. More information about the filmmaker (and, in addition, some of her beautiful photography) can be found at www.sarahsandring.com.

Zach Kuehner lives and works in Toronto, Ontario. His educational background includes health science as well as international relations and politics. He can be reached at zkuehner@gmail.com