Building Unity To Action

PROPONENT: Peter Kulchyski, with Co-Collaborators Wanda Nanibush and Shiri Pasternak
PROJECT NAME: Building Unity To Action
PROJECT TYPE: Film project / Symposium


 This project involves a regional gathering of not less than 100 Indigenous land defenders who will come together to discuss effective action and leadership in contemporary practices of dissent. The gathering will be held in Toronto and will include a group of mostly Ontario-based First Nations elected and grassroots leaders. Leaders from other regions will also be attending, including representatives from Manitoba, BC, and Quebec. Co-Collaborators Wanda Nanibush and Shiri Pasternak will be coordinating the gathering, called Building Unity to Action, and conducting one-on-one interviews with participants to discuss their particular histories and local contemporary practices of dissent. Each activist interviewed will be asked about their personal and collective histories of struggle and what strategies they have deployed in combating colonialism as expressed and organized through the Indian Act, unfulfilled treaties, land encroachment and theft, internalized colonialism on reserves, violence against Aboriginal women, family breakdown, addiction, and other issues. They will also be asked about the role of cultural resurgence in their choice of strategies and actions. We will investigate what role cultural resurgence plays in contemporary practices of dissent. In addition, we will focus on the gendered nature of Indigenous sovereignty, and the specific strategies deployed in women’s movements in contrast to male-dominated movements.


We will undetake a minimum of 15 interviews with grassroots and elected leaders on their experiences and actions of dissent, contributing to an ever-growing archive of the history of Indigenous resistance in Canada. Major figures like Arthur Manuel and Russell Diabo will be recorded, as well as community-based leaders such as Samuel McKay from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, and elected leaders, such as Chief Isadore Day of Garden River First Nation. 

Most significant, we will be making a special effort to record women's experiences and stories of resistance and resurgence. We will interview grassroots women, such as Darlene Necan of Saugeen First Nation and Vanessa Matthews of Aamjiwnaang First Nation. By focusing on women, we will access the community-based activism so rarely discussed or seen. The majority of current scholarship and filmmaking activity focuses on male figures and events related to government policy. 

LANGUAGES OF PROJECT: English, Anishnabe, Haudenosaunee

TIMELINE: Symposium and Interviews will take place August 17-18, 2013.


RESEARCH ASSISTANT REQUIREMENTS: Research assistants will undertake the organization, coordination, and interviewing of land defenders. Their requirements involve the support of funds to cover travel, accommodations, and per diem expenses for Indigenous land defenders to gather in Toronto for the Building Unity to Action conference.

INVOLVEMENT OF GRADUATE STUDENTS: Shiri Pasternak, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto, Department of Geography, Program in Planning, will be participating in the organization and filming of land defenders.