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My Name Is Kahentiiosta (1995)

by on 2013/09/20

My Name Is Kahentiiosta (1995)“I couldn’t hug him, I couldn’t comfort him …because they cuffed me in the back.”

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Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you are willing to leave your life, home and even your kids to fight for it?

Yeah, me neither.

My Name is Kahentiiosta is a film about a woman with the strength of her convictions. It struck me while watching this National Film Board short that it is people like the film’s subject Kahentiiosta, a young Kahnawake Mohawk woman, who actually change the world.

Not so much people like me.

I mostly play it safe. I like comfort, safety, routine. I like the predictability of knowing what is going to happen next.

Kahentiiosta left her life, her home and went to the front lines of an armed conflict. She faced down soldiers and ultimately, the Quebec justice system. She risked her life, her freedom all for her culture and her land.

This documentary directed and written by Alanis Obomsawin gives a poignant view into the Oka Crisis in Quebec. I remember the news stories well during that time but I never got to see what it was like behind the blockades. I didn’t know anything about the people behind the bandanas that obscured their identities, the guns and the camo fatigues.

One of the protesters who played a role in the 78-day armed standoff in 1990, Kahentiiosta was there when the army was called in, countless folks were arrested, and lives were up-ended.

What were they protesting? In part, land developers wanted to turn a sacred forest and burial important to Mohawk culture into a golf course.

I really have to back the protesters on that one. The world really doesn’t need another golf course.

In this documentary, you get to see more than the news ever showed me at the time. The chaos of the military operation. The impatience of the soldiers, the almost party-like atmosphere amongst the inmates at the army detention facility. The confusion of the guards. The footage obtained from the Department of National Defence and the candid interviews with Kahentiiosta paint a picture of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

Except Kahentiiosta is really anything but ordinary.

Her children were taken from her when she was detained. She couldn’t comfort her terrorized five-year-old son because her hands were cuffed behind her back on a prison bus. When the justice system opted to show some leniency to the women involved in the stand-off,  Kahentiiosta refused to take it, refusing to give her “Canadian name” opting to provide only her Mohawk name.

She stayed in jail long after the other women left, separated from her kids.

She risked it all. Comfort, family, freedom.

She’s the sort of person that changes things.

Not so much me. Not yet.

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29 minutes


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