2012 | 50 min

The People of the Kattawapiskak River

by Alanis Obomsawin

The documentary The People of the Kattawapiskak River exposes the dreadful living conditions of the Kattawapiskak Cree in Northern Ontario along James Bay. In Fall 2011, their village, better known as Attawapiskat, made headlines when its band chief, Theresa Spence, declared a state of emergency and asked the Canadian Red Cross to help solve a severe housing crisis. Through personal accounts of the people here, the film reveals a bitterly cold, ramshackle environment where the Kattawapiskak Cree and the Canadian government are at loggerheads.
Nearly a thousand people are awaiting decent housing and live in shacks with no running water or electricity at temperatures of minus 40 degrees. Why is the situation so dire, when nearby diamond deposits mined by the company De Beers can ultimately yield an estimated 6 million carats? Will this Cree community, with a third of its population aged 18 and under, overcome these shameful, slum-like conditions in a country deemed one of the world’s richest?