Helen Knott, a social worker, author, activist and poet worked with CBC Short Docs in order to produce Peace River Rising, a brief documentary that studies the link between violence against Indigenous women and violence against the land. She was kind enough to share her illuminating work with us, which can also be found on her personal blog.
l have been blessed to work with a solid caring team on this short documentary featured below. It’s funny that the initial connection with the filmmaker, Coty Savard, was actually through this very blog a number of years ago. Together we have created three poetry videos and now this, through CBC Short Docs. How is that for full circle?
At times this documentary was hard and challenging for me and I questioned, really questioned, having to tell hard stories. I worried about giving too much of a “victim based narrative” to my story, which is the story of a lot of other Indigenous women as well. We are so much more than our stories. We have risen from our stories, from the cracked syllables, forced interruptions, and abrupt endings to create our own stories. We have taken back the control to dictate where our lives will lead us and what we will and refuse to accept. I am a strong Indigenous woman and I know plenty of strong Indigenous women. Of course, the question was then…. how do you tell the truth about hard realities and not feed into the “victim narrative” that is either embraced or reacted with scorn by a settler audience?
I have no answer for that. I only know that you can stand in your truth and tell your story by your own terms and if the truth is unsettling… then good. It should be, because we live day in and day out with those shaky realities.
What I do know is that I love being a Dane Zaa and Nehiyaw woman from these territories. I love the vastness of the north and the cold winters that make me feel like I have thicker skin than most #northernpride. I love the endless maze of spruce trees, birch, and poplar with scattered rabbit trails through willows that remind me of my Asu’s rabbit soup. I love the town I live in as well because underneath all of the statistics, there is a solid and loving community here. I just want it to be safe place for our women, and a good place for women in general. This is why these stories need to be told, so that the shift can take place. A place where municipalities actually respond to reports such as the Amnesty’s, Out of Sight & Out of Mind Report, and concerns of local Indigenous women with plans of actions rather than sloughing it off by citing their plans for city sewers and slides… then adding that Indigenous women can form a committee to make some changes as an afterthought (Real response at a Fort St. John Amnesty panel) .
Or living in a town where the Mayor doesn’t quote biblical stories to negate being “opposed” to a mega hydro electric project that impacts Indigenous communities and treaty rights, as well as the rights and concerns of farmers and northerners whom have lived here for generations that DO NOT want this dam… Yes Mayor Lori Ackerman, I can still remember you saying that the cities neutral position was much like “Noah, preparing for the flood” to justify remaining “neutral” while preparing for Site C “if it did go through”… I really thought the days of using Biblical references to justify the stealing of Indigenous lands were behind us. But apparently I was wrong…. and I was saddened that I was wrong. It speaks volumes to the understanding of Indigenous relationships and propriety.. and why there was no real response to the Amnesty Report. Volumes.
We, and by we I mean the many Indigenous women who came before me, have had to fight for every ounce of recognition and restoration of dignity that we have gotten in this settler patriarchal state. No one handed Indigenous women’s “Indian Status” back to them after they were disenfranchised, no one from the outside said, “hey, there’s a lot of Native women going missing and we need to make some changes around here”, no one from the outside said that the forced sterilization of our women was an act of genocide, no one fought for our right to vote during the suffragette movement. Yes, we have allies and outside bonds that have worked alongside us but the fact of the matter is we have historically always had to fight to be seen as human.
But here we are, in the space that forces us to speak louder when we are not being heard… and I can tell you, that We. Are. Not. Going. Anywhere.
We are still here and we will continue to be here. We will fight for those and that which we love.
PS check this article out that discusses Site C and how it IS NOT PAST THE POINT OF NO RETURN. There is still time to place pressure on political parties to end this madness, there is still time to rise up and use your voice… I encourage you to have conversations at your kitchen table, at coffee shops, and to join with like minded people and plan solidarity actions leading up to the Provincial Election, Federal pressure too! Lets stay on this folks.