Tasha Hubbard’s film – nîpawistamâsowin – masterfully advocates for justice

The family of Colten Boushie took their fight for justice to the United Nations. Photo from the film 'nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up.'

By Laura Mushumanski

(ANNews) – Director and filmmaker Tasha Hubbard was the recent recipient of a prestigious Canadian Screen Award. On May 25, the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards named the film nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up  the Ted Rogers Best Feature Length Documentary.

Last year Hubbard also received 8 awards for nîpawistamâsowin, including The Vancouver Film Critics Circle award for Best Canadian Documentary of 2019.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is a story about the death of a young Cree man, Colten Boushie, from the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation. After Boushie and his friends entered Gerald Stanley’s rural property near Biggar, Saskatchewan, Colten was shot in the back of the head by Stanley. The police inquiry was inadequate along with an unfair trial that consisted of an all-white jury that led to international attention and Boushie’s family in pursuit of justice for Colten. The film narrates how institutionalized racism is embedded within the Canadian legal system. At the same time, it deftly shares the history of colonialism in Treaty 6 Territory, and provides a vision for a Canada where Indigenous children are safe in their communities.

Hubbard, a University of Alberta professor and acclaimed film maker stated about the making of the film, “I thought about Colten’s mother and family and what they were going through. And then I started to think, well this is part of this context of this particular area, this is part of a continuum of colonial violence. I just wanted to, in some way, document what was happening, and give the family the opportunity to speak about what they were going through.”

Previous to winning the awards for the documentary nîpawistamâsowin, Hubbard achieved another significant milestone in April of 2019. nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up was the first film by an Indigenous filmmaker to open for the Hot Docs International Canadian Documentary Film Festival, the largest film documentary film festival in North America.

Hubbard appreciates the accolades but cautions about looking too much at the “celebratory elements” of things. “Absolutely we can celebrate, we can be thankful, however, I think history has shown us that a lot of times that gives people who need to do the work, permission to sit back and do nothing else,” said Hubbard. “I feel that with the film industry, we see a shift happening in how Indigenous film is viewed by broadcasters and funders, who are finally realizing that an Indigenous story needs to have a key creative Indigenous lead, telling that story. It needs to be told in a way that is responsible, that comes from us, from a filmmaker that understands the complexities of stories. There needs to be work done at all different levels.”

Hubbard never forgets how fortunate she was that her adopted family didn’t try and make her deny who she was. At the age of 16, Tasha met her biological family. She reflected back on her coming to terms with Indigenous history, “When I started to learn the true history [of Indigenous people], I was really angry. How come I didn’t already know this? Why was this not taught? Why was I led to believe through media, through films, through literature that there is something lacking in Indigenous people? Because that is how we have been represented. “

The story of Colten Boushie in the media came with heavy hearts, as the stories being told were from only one narrative – a non-Indigenous narrative. Hubbard acknowledges that she saw an opportunity to make things right, about “the way in which words were used to deflect blame, and to place blame on the victim. That’s what happened with the press release the RCMP put out; it was carefully worded to put the blame on these young people, rather than on the two men who acted in a violent way and one of whom went and got a gun,” said Hubbard. “I just felt that the media was not going to cover the story with that knowledge and complexity and deeply search the truth.”

Hubbard’s talent as a filmmaker and storyteller and her belief that we all have unique abilities to contribute to make things better, encouraged her to share Colten Boushie’s story. For her it was a merging of her abilities and her desire “to make things better however I can, for my son, nephew and our children.”

Hubbard’s vision for sharing the story of Colten Boushie and her experience with Colten’s family inspired her to write nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up.

“Something I saw in Colten’s family – Debbie and Jade, and Elenor Sunchild – they had a similar sense of what can they do, how can they contribute. For them it is about using the experience of what they went through and wanting to encourage others to speak out and to push for that change.”

For anyone interested in learning about film making, The Indigenous Screen Office and The National Screen Institute can provide resources and information about mentorships.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up  is available for screening at nfb.ca.

 Laura Mushumanski is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.


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