THUNDER BAY — In early September 2019, two elders from Nibinamik First Nation embarked on a trip along a historic canoe route in their traditional territories.
They were accompanied on the four-day paddling expedition south from Nibinamik to their birthplace at PinnaeMootang by several youths and a crew from Thunder Bay-based Shebafilms.
Now, after three years of post-production work, the 24-minute film – Journey to Our Homelands – chronicling the journey will be shown this week at the 18th annual Vox Popular Media Arts Festival.
Elders Tommy Yellowhead and Stephen Neshinapaise hope the film helps to inspire all Matawa First Nations youth to "think beyond the Indian Act" and start reconnecting with each other through their lakes, rivers and trails.
Although only 50 kilometres apart by air, the canoe route between Nibinamik and PinnaeMootang is longer, and includes numerous portages.
At PinnaeMootang (shown on current maps as Eyes Lake), where a homecoming reception was held in the old village, the young people were able to experience elements of the life the elders enjoyed years ago.
Yellowhead left PinnaeMootang to go to school in the early 1960s.
He said it was important to bring the youths along "because young people today don't know much about our history. We wanted to pass on what we knew.."
Yellowhead said they told him they enjoyed the trip and that they learned a lot.
The Matawa Chiefs Council supported the expedition.
Mawawa First Nations Management CEO David Paul Achneepineskum said the film highlights the history of First Nation people on their traditional territories "long before the Indian Act put us on reserves, and our use of the land today."
Achneepineskum said the film will be a valuable learning and teaching tool for generations to come.
Journey to Our Homelands, directed by Adrien Harpelle, will be shown at the Vox Popular Media Arts Festival which opens Thursday at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay.
Yellowhead has already seen the film, but plans to attend the premiere as well.