To Wake Up the Nakota Language
| 6 min 17 s
Selections and Awards
“When you don’t know your language or your culture, you don’t know who you are,” says 69-year-old Armand McArthur, one of the last fluent Nakota speakers in Pheasant Rump First Nation, Treaty 4 territory, in southern Saskatchewan. Through the wisdom of his words, Armand is committed to revitalizing his language and culture for his community and future generations.
Across North America, Indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing. “When you don’t know your language or your culture, you don’t know who you are,” says Armand McArthur, one of the last fluent Nakota speakers in Pheasant Rump First Nation, Treaty 4 territory, in southern Saskatchewan. With an eye to the future, this 69-year-old is committed to revitalizing his language for his community and future generations. Reflecting upon the land his ancestors have called home for centuries, he brings that connection to a classroom for people of all ages, who gather to share knowledge, laughter and a way of life.
Doc Lab Saskatchewan
In developing To Wake Up the Nakota Language, Louise BigEagle was influenced by the recent passing of her Cree grandmother. Realizing that the loss of her grandmother also meant losing her language and knowledge, she was motivated to learn as much as possible about the efforts that are being made to ensure that her local Indigenous languages are protected and shared. In her first film for the National Film Board of Canada, she wanted to show people the beauty of her language, and the need to save it. “There aren’t many of us in Saskatchewan anymore, so it’s important to bring that language back into our communities. Having our languages come back will bring us together.”
For BigEagle, having the opportunity to collaborate with an experienced filmmaking team to bring this story to the screen was one of the most beneficial aspects of participating in Doc Lab Saskatchewan. “If there was something I wasn’t certain about or needed a second opinion on, they were right there to help me. By them being there it taught me to be more confident in what I wanted in my vision.” Working with producer Jon Montes and director/mentor Robin Schlaht provided BigEagle with valuable support through the production, giving her the opportunity to focus on the personal story she was passionate about sharing and the reassurance that it would be fully realized.
Doc Lab Saskatchewan Filmmakers: Kristin Catherwood, Eric Thiessen, Louise BigEagle
Doc Lab Saskatchewan is a collaborative training initiative between the National Film Board of Canada, Creative Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, launched in the spring of 2017. Three emerging filmmakers were selected from an open call for submissions to individually create short documentaries, from concept to post-production, with a focus on visual storytelling. The successful applicants were provided mentorship and production support to develop films that shared perspectives about their home province, aiding their career development in non-fiction filmmaking.
Interview with Louise BigEagle
Photo : Taryn Snell
Louise BigEagle is from Ocean Man First Nation, Saskatchewan, and currently lives in Regina. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies from the University of Regina. BigEagle writes poetry, short fiction and screenplays, and her past work includes the film Sounds of the Sundance, dedicated to those who attended residential schools, and the documentary I Am a Boy, which was created as part of the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS) Media Project.
Photo : Taryn Snell
Based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Robin Schlaht began his career in still photography before moving into writing, directing and producing both documentary and dramatic projects for film and television. Born and raised in a small prairie town, Robin has travelled the world to make and present his films, including at such prestigious festivals as TIFF, South by Southwest, FIPA (France) and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Photo : Taryn Snell
Based in Winnipeg, Jon Montes has been a producer with the NFB’s North West Studio since 2016, and is currently developing a slate of documentary and animation projects in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Completed projects include Talking at Night (dir. Eric Thiessen), To Wake Up the Nakota Language (dir. Louise BigEagle), and Ride (dir. Kristin Catherwood), all produced through the Doc Lab Saskatchewan initiative, as well as Breaths (dir. Nyla Innuksuk) and Music in the Prairie Night (dir. Mike Maryniuk), both made for the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. As associate producer with the NFB from 2013–2015 in St. John’s and Montreal, Jon worked on the feature documentaries Gun Runners (Hot Docs 2016) and Danny (Hot Docs 2015), the animated short 54 Hours (Founder’s Award, Yorkton Film Festival), the interactive documentary Bubble Dancers (32nd International Environmental Film Festival, Paris), and the 10th and 11th editions of the Hothouse intensive program for emerging animators. A transplanted East Coaster, Jon holds an MA in Communication & Culture from York and Ryerson universities.
Written and Directed by
Director of photography
Technical support – editing
Recording & re-recording
Pheasant Rump First Nations Reserve
Michelle Van Beusekom
Nakota class members
Centre operations manager
Katja De Bock
Dara Jade Moats
About the NFB
The NFB is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences. NFB producers are embedded in communities across the country, from St. John’s to Vancouver, working with talented creators on innovative and socially relevant projects. The NFB is a leader in gender equity in film and digital media production, and is working to strengthen Indigenous-led production, guided by the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. NFB productions have won over 7,000 awards, including 27 Canadian Screen Awards, 21 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 100 Genies. To access this award-winning content and discover the work of NFB creators, visit NFB.ca, download its apps for mobile devices or visit NFB Pause.