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Matawa First Nations celebrate Yorkton Film Festival award

ShebaFilms' documentary Journey To Our Homelands was produced by the late Tommy Yellowhead
The documentary film "Journey to Our Homelands" won a Golden Sheaf Award for research at the 2023 Yorkton Film Festival (submitted image)

THUNDER BAY — A documentary film that followed First Nations elders and youths on a canoe trip to old settlements has won a Golden Sheaf Award for research at the Yorkton Film Festival in Saskatchewan.

Journey To Our Homelands traces a four-day paddling expedition by Nibinamik First Nation elders Tommy Yellowhead and Stephen Neshinapaise, accompanied by six youths and a crew from ShebaFilms, to the elders' birthplace where their ancestors had lived for eons.

The trailer for the 24-minute film, directed by Adrien Harpelle and produced by Yellowhead, can be viewed online

It was made with the support of Matawa First Nations and Matawa's Four Rivers environmental services group.

In announcing the award Tuesday, Matawa First Nations Management said "Sadly ... Tommy Yellowhead of Pinnae Mootang (the homeland area around Nibinamik First Nation) was not alive to celebrate this achievement, having passed away in March 2023."

The award will be presented to the family of the elder, who stated during the film's premiere in 2022 that he hoped it would help inspire Matawa First Nations youth to "think beyond the Indian Act" and start reconnecting with each other through their lakes, rivers, and trails.

In an interview at the time with TBnewswatch, he said it was important to bring youths on the canoe trip "because young people today don't know much about our history. We wanted to pass on what we knew."

The production took three years to complete.

Besides the award for research, Journey To Our Homelands was nominated in other categories including Best Emerging Director for Harpelle, and for the Kathleen Shannon Award, named for the pioneering Montreal film maker who founded the National Film Board's women's studio in 1974.

Matawa First Nations Management CEO David Paul Achneepineskum congratulated all the individuals involved in the making of the documentary.  

"It is an acknowledgement well-deserved, albeit posthumously," he said.

"As an original board member of MFNM, and when he produced the documentary ... the late Tommy Yellowhead left a mark on this world that can never be erased. His traditional knowledge of our people's history, and the needs of our communities, is knowledge that will serve us all well today and into the future."

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