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
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 and distributor of award-winning documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences, working with talented creators across the country. The NFB is taking action to combat systemic racism and become a more open and diverse organization, while working to strengthen Indigenous-led production and gender equity in film and digital media. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including 12 Oscars. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.