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Late Mushkegowuk grand chief plays big role in Treaty 9 documentary

Wednesday September 3, 2014
Promotional poster for Alanis Obomsawin’s latest documentary — Trick or Treaty?. The film features the late Mushkegowuk grand chief Stan Louttit.

Acclaimed Aboriginal filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin said that the late Mushkegowuk grand chief Stan Louttit is a key figure in her latest documentary, Trick or Treaty?

The film, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 5, focuses on the signing of Treaty 9 and recent events such as Idle No More, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike and the Journey of Nishiyuu.

“(Louttit) plays a really big role. He’s the conductor of that section (about Treaty 9 signing),” Obomsawin said.

Louttit was passionate about educating others about the signing of Treaty 9, which he did through a presentation he called “The Real Agreement as Orally Agreed to.” It chronicled the signing of the Treaty 9 in 1905 and how treaty commissioners at the time made oral assurances that were not written in the treaty.

Although Louttit can at times appear angry and passionate about the topic, Obomsawin said others have commented in how there’s an underlying softness and care.

“You look at his face and there’s something so kind, and at the same time he’s pushing and he’s angry. He wants to prove this and that. But there remains always, in his speech, in his language, how he talks, a fundamental good kind person. I don’t know how to better explain it.”

Louttit also appeared in Obomsawin’s previous two films: The People of Kattawapisak River, a documentary about the Attawapiskat housing crisis, and Hi-Ho Mistahey!, about Shannen’s Dream.

“He was always present when a crisis happens,” Obomsawin said. “I was impressed with him in how he was concerned about his people.”

Obomsawin said she was devastated by the news of Louttit’s death in late June and that he will not be at the premiere.

Obomsawin said she exchanged e-mails with Louttit not long before his death. He inquired about the film, and Obomsawin told him she hoped his chemo treatment would not make him too tired to attend the premiere.

“He said, I stopped the treatment and the doctor is giving me a year (to live), and he said, I’m going to live much more than that,” Obomsawin recalled. “A couple weeks later he was gone.
I was so shocked. I had a very hard time.

At the time, the film is incomplete but Obomsawin wishes she had sent him the film.

“I had no clue this was going to happen. I just felt terrible. Because it would’ve made him so happy, I know that.”

Obomsawin hopes those who see the film will learn a lot.

“And that is what Stan wanted. He kept repeating that he wanted to educate not only his own people or the other nations, but also Canadians so that they would know what the treaty really means, how they’re made and what was said, especially about Treaty 9.”

Trick or Treaty? is part of TIFF’s prestigious masters programme, which showcases the “latest from the world’s most influential art-house filmmakers.”

After TIFF screened Hi-Ho Mistahey! last year, Obomsawin said she was surprised her latest film was accepted, let alone be a part of the masters programme.

“It’s a very wonderful honour and especially for the people in the film,” she said. “It’s prestigious and I hope it will make a good mark.”

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