Film Review: Trick or Treaty?
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)
Canadian Distributor- National Film Board of Canada
Acclaimed Canadian documentarian Alanis Obomsawin does another incredible job with her latest documentary “Trick or Treaty,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.
Although Obomsawin uses the backdrop of numerous integral events such as the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation and the rise of the Idle No More Movement, and other youth oriented movements, she mostly digs into the history of Treaty 9- an agreement in 1905 where it is alleged that First Nations communities relinquished their sovereignty over traditional territories.
According to the Indian and Northern Affairs website, Treaty No. 9 was created in response to continuous petitions from the Cree and Ojibwa people of northern Ontario, and in keeping with its policy of paving the way for settlement and development, the federal government in 1905-1906 negotiated Treaty 9, also known as the James Bay Treaty. It is said that “For the first and only time, a provincial government took an active role in negotiations.” and together with the area acquired by adhesions in 1929-1930, Treaty 9 covers almost two-thirds of the area that became northern Ontario.
However Obomsawin, through numerous interviews with legal, historical and cultural experts- as well as those whose ancestors were present when the treaty was signed reveals the deceptions and distortions in which the real agreement was subjected to by successive Canadian governments. It becomes clear through the interviews that the printed copy of the treaty is not the only valid version and that the First Nations who signed the treaty, were not able to see the written treaty itself until decades later. It was also written in a language they didn’t understand.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Obomsawin’s latest documentary because she is a force to be reckoned with as far as film documentarians documenting the state sanctioned indignities and injustices visited on First Nations peoples and their communities. She has created numerous bodies of work that show a reality that is not often shown by government and mainstream media.
Cast & Credits
Executive Producer: Annette Clarke
Producer: Alanis Obomsawin
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada
Screenplay: Alanis Obomsawin
Cinematographer: René Sioui Labelle, Philippe Amiguet, Michael Darby
Editor: Alison Burns
Sound: Glenn Hodgins, Donald Ayer
Music: Alain Auger