Indigenous History Recs

Indigenous History Recs

June is Indigenous History Month, and we’ve got recommendations for films, podcasts, and books with a (mostly) local focus.

The Power Was With Us: Idle No More (2020)

Available free on APTN Lumi 

This two-part documentary looks back on the charged winter of 2012 when the Idle No More movement swept across the country, calling for Indigenous rights and environmental protections. Without any central leader, through round dances and hunger strikes and more, it grew rapidly, causing confusion among Canadians and the Canadian security establishment. Pulling heavily from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) archives, the doc transports you back to the days of Idle No More, and traces its lasting legacy.

Trick Or Treaty? (2014)

National Film Board

Two-thirds of Northern Ontario is governed by a vast agreement called Treaty 9. Canada and Ontario point to its signing in 1905-1906 to claim the territory as theirs. But according to Indigenous people and even the journals of Canadian Treaty negotiators, Indigenous signatories were lied to: what they agreed to in talks was significantly different from what was written down in English (a language most Indigenous signatories couldn’t understand). Was it a treaty agreed to in good faith, or a colonial trick? Veteran Abenaki documentarian and narrator Alanis Obomsawin deftly weaves the story together. You can buy the film from the National Film Board site or watch it free on Youtube.

Invasion — Freda Huson

Invasion (2019)

Available free online 

“How come you guys always come and interrupt our prayers, our eating?” Freda Huson asks a group of RCMP officers as she approaches them on a bridge over the Wed Zinka (Morice River). This is the opening scene of Invasion, an 18-minute documentary about the Wet’suwet’en fight against resource companies pushing into their territory, especially the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. Published by Unist’ot’en Camp, the film has footage from the pipeline route, including the 2019 militarized RCMP raid, associated protests, and people interrupting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his town hall events. It cuts off in 2019, but a full-length version of the doc including later footage is rumoured to be in the works.

One Dead Indian (2006)

Available free online 

This made-for-TV movie is a dramatization based on the real events of the Ipperwash Crisis, and features a strong cast of Indigenous and non-Indigenous actors. The narrative moves back and forth from the First Nation, where a number of people are occupying their land on the former military base, to the OPP and provincial lawyers, who see this is as a trespassing issue and are mounting a massive operation to forcibly push the occupiers out.


Our Long Struggle for Home: The Ipperwash Story

During the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) killed Dudley George, an Ojibwa land defender who was part of a group reclaiming territory stolen by the Canadian military from the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. At the ensuing provincial inquiry First Nation members were forced to testify. In Our Long Struggle for Home, community members tell a fuller picture on their own terms, including life in the abandoned barracks, the lead-up to the police confrontation, and the aftermath.

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians looks at the complex roots of treaty relationships in the place we now call Toronto. The book explores Indigenous treaty-making through Wampum belts, such as the Two Row Wampum and the Dish With One Spoon, and also the non-Indigenous treaty approaches, including the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Toronto Purchase (1787, 1805, 2010). The book is an extension of Jumblies Theatre’s Talking Treaties program. In that spirit, it has interactive writing prompts and theatre activities to get readers (and classrooms) exploring the modern-day embodiment of treaty relations.

Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call, 2nd Edition

Partly a fast-paced autobiography of famed Sec’wepemc leader Arthur Manuel, Unsettling Canada makes the case that Canada’s claim to more than 99.8 per cent of the land here is the source of Indigenous poverty. The book includes the story of Manuel’s confrontations with Canadian governments and businesses, including the fierce Sec’wepemc fight against the construction of the Sun Peaks ski resort. The second edition was published after Manuel’s passing in 2017 and features a foreword by Naomi Klein and a chapter co-authored by law professor Nicole Schabus and Manuel’s daughter, Kanahus.

Indigenous Toronto: Stories that Carry This Place

The Toronto region has 12,000 years of uninterrupted Indigenous presence and nationhood that continues today. Indigenous Toronto, a collection of dozens of short chapters by different authors, captures some of that history and individuals’ stories. You’re sure to learn something new about Toronto from this book – from the Toronto Purchase to local Native music radio to the beloved NishDish restaurant.


One Dish One Mic

It started as an Indigenous affairs podcast and it’s now a Saturday morning (10 am to noon) Niagara region broadcast on iHeartRadio. Hosts Karl Dockstader and Sean Vanderklis discuss the news of the day, bringing big-name guests and more local personalities. Given the long history of North American talk radio’s anti-Indigenous bent, One Dish One Mic is a refreshing change of pace. 

Media Indigena

Media Indigena is a current affairs podcast covering Indigenous culture and politics with a rotating cast of Indigenous commentators. The 320+ episode archive includes lively discussions on anti-Indigenous online trolls, the Doctrine of Discovery, Indigenous food politics, ecosystem protection, media analysis, and more. Winnipeg-based host Rick Harp makes sure everything is well explained for non-experts.

Indigenous Waves

Hosts Jenny Blackbird and Jennifer Sylvester talk about Toronto’s Indigenous community and happenings, in particular around the University of Toronto. Indigenous Waves is broadcast on CIUT 89.5 FM, U of T’s community station. They talk about arts, music, politics, history, and more, often with local Indigenous guests.