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God Help the Man Who Would Part with His Land

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Legendary filmmaker George C. Stoney directs this early example of documentary social-justice activism, which tracks a land-claim dispute between the Kanien'kéhaka (Mohawk) Nation of Akwesasne and a group of white cottagers. Although the relationships start out cordially, tensions are quickly revealed when the First Nations people set up camp on the land, and both parties wait for the Department of Indian Affairs to settle the dispute. Led by the indomitable Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell, who later became Grand Chief, the Kanien'kéhaka detail their familial and legal title to the land, and how it was sold without their knowledge. The mounting frustrations of the Indigenous claimants and disengagement of government officials can be seen as precursors to First Nations land disputes to come. 

This film was produced as part of Challenge for Change/Société Nouvelle (CFC/SN), a groundbreaking community-engaged documentary program run by the National Film Board from 1967 to 1980. The program pioneered participatory and experimental storytelling in film and video, with a focus on the perspectives of Indigenous and marginalized communities whose voices were rarely represented in the media landscape. In 1968, the Challenge for Change program established the “Indian Film Crew,” marking the beginning of a movement of Indigenous filmmaking at the NFB and in Canada.

For more information on CFC/SN: https://www.nfb.ca/playlists/michael-brendan-thomas-waugh-ezra-winton/challenge-for-change/

1971, 46 min 49 s