Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up

Jade Tootoosis
Jade Tootoosis in one of many rallies that sparked outrage throughout Canada
The late Colten Boushie
The late Colten Boushie

August 9, 2016, was a hot summer afternoon. Colten Boushie, a young Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation, spent the day swimming with friends. On the drive back home their car got a flat tire so the group decided to walk to a farmer’s home to get some help. What transpired was truly shocking. After they entered Gerald Stanley’s rural property, Boushie would die from a gunshot to the back of his head.

Last year’s acquittal of Stanley by an all-white jury captured international attention. The verdict raised questions about racism embedded within Canada’s legal system and propelled Colten’s family on to the national and international stages in their pursuit of Justice.

The latest documentary sensitively directed by Tasha Hubbard is Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up. The film weaves a profound narrative. It encompasses the filmmaker’s own adoption, the stark history of colonialism on the prairies, and a transformative vision of a future where Indigenous children can live safely on their homeland.

Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up has been chosen to open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on April 25. The film follows the Boushie family, their lawyers, and others as they seek Justice to this senseless act that caused national and international outrage directed against the Canadian justice system.

The documentary shows Colten’s sister, Jade Tootoosis, addressing the United Nations. In her April 2018 speech, Jade recommended that the UN Special Rapporteur – an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme – undertake a study on the systemic racism and discrimination on Indigenous people within the juridical and legal systems in Canada. Jade received a huge ovation after delivering her speech.

“This study must produce recommendations to insure the protection of Indigenous families who utilize the judicial and legal system. This will advance our calls on the Canadian government to establish a royal commission on the elimination of racism in the justice system,” said Jade.

Colten’s mother, Debbie Baptise said that she was waiting for her son to come home the evening of her son’s death, when RCMP showed-up at her home.

“I had put Colten’s supper in the microwave, and was waiting for him to get home, when my son told me, look at all those cars coming,” said Baptise. “The cops burst into my home and told me, what’s Colton Bouchie to you?”

Debbie told the police that Colten was her son, upon which they abruptly told her that her son was deceased.

“I was in shock, then the cops held my hands to my back and told me if I had been drinking.”

This was the treatment the RCMP showed on a night when a  mother received devastating news that her son had just been killed.

Eleanore Sunchild is one of the Boushie family’s attorneys. The film includes the press conference where Sunchild said that the acquittal sent a message that it’s open season on Indigenous people followed by her calling out a biased judicial system. “But it’s not open season on our people; the whole process was stacked against the Boushie family from the beginning,” added Sunchild.

Sheldon Wuttunee is former chief of the Red Pheasant First Nation. Just before Gerald Stanley’s 2017 second degree murder trial, he told reporters that there was still a little inkling of faith in the legal system.

“I don’t know if ‘justice system’ is the proper term, but when we can use excuses in today’s society as an engine revving, and a vehicle driving into my yard, someone hopping onto my quad, to chasing them [Boushie’s friends] and smashing their windows [referring to Stanley smashing Boushies vehicle windows], kicking their tail-lights, shooting them [again, referring to Stanley shooting], then we’re in a very troubled place,” said Wuttunee.

Wuttunee cites long-standing animosity and racism between whites and indigenous as the root of the problem. “This racism has been around us for many, many generations, this is not strange to us. It is the non-native narrative that usually wins, and that’s got to change,” said Wuttunee.

The film’s opening at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival will make history when it becomes the first film by an Indigenous filmmaker to open Hot Docs and the first National Film Board (NFB), work to open the festival since its inaugural year. The largest documentary festival in North America, it runs through May 5.

The documentary is a Downstream/ NFB production. The NFB will be rolling out the film via festival, theatrical, and community screenings over the course of this year. CBC will broadcast Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up in the fall. First Nations Drum will publish a review of Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up in the April 2019 issue.