Trick or Treaty, Hi-Ho Mistahey! + Our People Will Be Healed

by Alanis Obomsawin

About the Films

Hi-Ho Mistahey!

In this feature-length documentary, Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Shannen’s Dream, a national campaign to provide equitable access to education in safe and suitable schools for First Nations children. Strong participation in this initiative eventually brings Shannen’s Dream all the way to the United Nations in Geneva.

Trick or Treaty?

Covering a vast swath of northern Ontario, Treaty No. 9 reflects the often contradictory interpretations of treaties between First Nations and the Crown. To the Canadian government, this treaty represents a surrendering of Indigenous sovereignty, while the descendants of the Cree signatories contend its original purpose to share the land and its resources has been misunderstood and not upheld. Enlightening as it is entertaining, Trick or Treaty? succinctly and powerfully portrays one community’s attempts to enforce their treaty rights and protect their lands, while also revealing the complexities of contemporary treaty agreements. Trick or Treaty? made history as the first film by an Indigenous filmmaker to be part of the Masters section at TIFF when it screened there in 2014.

Our People Will Be Healed

Our People Will Be Healed, Alanis Obomsawin’s 50th film, reveals how a Cree community in Manitoba has been enriched through the power of education. The Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre in Norway House, north of Winnipeg, receives a level of funding that few other Indigenous institutions enjoy. Its teachers help their students to develop their abilities and their sense of pride. This is a powerful look at a community’s focus on education and it connects well with Hi-Ho Mistahey!

Note: If there is not enough time to cover all 3 films in class, Our People Will Be Healed could be optional or viewed at home as homework.


Hi-Ho Mistahey!

2013 | 1 h 39 min

Hi-Ho Mistahey! by Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


Trick or Treaty?

2014 | 1 h 24 min

Trick or Treaty?, by Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


Our People Will Be Healed

2017 | 1 h 30 min

Our People Will Be Healed, by Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

BIG IDEAS with Film Unit: Rights, Land, Education

Time required: 10 classes
Grade(s): 10-12

Unit Overview:

This guide has been designed to accompany 3 documentary films Trick or Treaty , Hi- Ho Mistahey! and Our People Will Be Healed,  directed by the world-renowned Abenaki film director Alanis Obomsawin. The films and this guide give students opportunities for deeper understanding of Treaty No.9 that governed Indigenous peoples’ lives in Northern Ontario and Quebec, and to see the powerful impact that youth-led initiatives and education can have for Indigenous communities. During this 10 to 12- lesson guide students will become familiar with Alanis Obomsawin’s purpose of storytelling by viewing her documentary films in class. Students will work in groups to research reliable information using secondary sources to learn about various dimensions of Canadian history and treaties that have been impacting Indigenous people’s lives for over 400 years. Students will work together to gather information, analyze findings, synthesize judgements and present educated opinions to their peers. Teachers committing to educating their students on social justice issues and Indigenous Peoples of Canada should be well-read in primary and secondary sources on Indigenous issues so that they can facilitate debates and guide students to necessary resources when needed.

By bringing Alanis Obomsawin’s films into the classroom as primary sources, students will be able to understand and evaluate the Canadian government’s actions concerning Indigenous lives over the past 120 years. This history is a significant component and offers context relating to the Truth and Reconciliation act and the TRC committee’s calls to action. Students will learn perspectives that speak to the importance for Indigenous peoples of Canada that they regain the rights that were taken away from them for so many years. This guide will help students to familiarize themselves with the social, cultural and historical dimensions of Canadian colonialism, its often-detrimental effect on the First Peoples of Canada, and they will learn about communities and young people advocating for change today.

BIG IDEAS with Film Inquiry Questions 

These questions can be adapted into a worksheet to fill in during or after film screenings:

  1. Who is the filmmaker, what are they known for?
  2. What is this film about? What are the main messages the filmmaker wanted us to understand?
  3. If you could ask the filmmaker a question, what would you ask?
  4. What were you thinking as you finished watching the film?
  5. What part of the story told by the film was the most powerful or memorable? Why?
  6. Sometimes fiction and documentary films explore important social or political issues. Describe any specific social or political issues that affect the story. How do these issues impact the people we saw in the film?
  7. Documentaries can show us new ways of understanding an issue or topic in our world. Describe an aspect of the film that showed you something you hadn’t seen before, caused you to think in a new way, or helped you understand something more thoroughly than before.
  8. What particularly appealed to you in the cinematic presentation of the film, such as how particular scenes, images, or sounds were presented?
  9. For documentary films: what conventions does the filmmaker incorporate in this film? Do they use voiceover, re-enactments, archival footage, interviews?
  10. Are there multiple viewpoints? Do they agree or contradict each other?

Who are the dominant voices in the documentary? Are they official sources such as government representatives, or are they experts of another kind? Or are they everyday people from the street? What is their connection to the documentary’s subject?


Questions and Connections

Key questions can be used before film screening or after, to help students see connections between their own lives and the ideas and perspectives they see in Obomsawin’s films. Select from questions and tailor them to your grade level.

  1. How much do you know about First Nations’ history? Do you know anything already about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada?
  2. Were you born in Canada? If not, where were you born? How important to you is that country’s culture, heritage, and language to you and your family?
  3. Do you speak more than one language? If so, do you feel more connected to another nation’s culture (and history) when you speak in that language? Do you speak that language with senior family members, such as aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents?
  4. Do your friends have cultural traditions and customs that are visibly and audibly different from those of your family? If so, can you elaborate? Do you participate with your friends and their families during special cultural events? If so, would you like to share some of your thoughts and experiences?
  5. Have you personally ever felt or experienced a loss of human rights? If so, what happened, and how did you deal with the situation?
  6. Imagine if somebody took you away from your family/community and you had to live and attend school in a community far away from all your family and friends. How might you feel? What would you do?
  7. What if you were forbidden from speaking the language you have been speaking since you were a baby? What if you were forced/ordered to learn and speak a new language?
  8. What types of music do you and your family listen to together? Do you make music together? Have your grandparents shared any music with you? Has your family taught you any particular songs and/or dances? Does having a musical heritage make you feel more connected to the past?