By Randolph Lewis
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Additional resources for Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker
In 1941, when Obomsawin was nine, her family left the reserve and moved to Three Rivers, a Frenchspeaking town just up the river. “That’s when the trouble began,” she remembers. No other Native people lived in the town, and she was forced to learn French as quickly as she could. “I attended a French school in the town’s slums,” she says. ”21 The French Catholic children seemed unable to see the merits of a real Abenaki girl in their midst, even though, at the very same time, another Native girl from a neighboring tribe, the saintly Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha, was becoming the object of intense fascination, even adoration, among North American Catholics.
That movie had made me afraid,” he said. The connection between Bruchac and Obomsawin is more than tribal. The ﬁlmmaker grew up a few hours north across the Canadian border from the best-selling writer, whose Abenaki family name, Bowman, is an Anglicized version of Obomsawin, making them distant relatives. 30 For both of them, the popularity of Northwest Passage suggests a great deal about the general culture of Indian hating in which they grew up as well as the speciﬁc degradation of Abenaki culture that they were forced to witness around them in the 1940s.
It was hard getting up on that stage,” she said, remembering that she was so nervous she thought she might faint. 508pt ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX , (25) figure 4. Obomsawin in 1971. Courtesy of the ﬁlmmaker. 26 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 ABENAKI BEGINNINGS even a whisper for a painfully long moment. ” she has asked, seeming amazed that she was able to ﬁnd her voice and ﬁnish her performance. 50 Afterward there was a riot of applause, but it was not enough to spark her interest in facing down stomach-churning stage fright on future occasions.
Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker by Randolph Lewis