The Oka Legacy – Documentary Explores Oka Crisis & Influence on Indigenous Identity

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown November 13th, 2015 Last Updated on: November 13th, 2015


Montreal, November 10, 2015 In the summer of 1990, all eyes were on the small town of Oka, Quebec. Triggered by plans to expand a golf course on ancestral land, it was a standoff between the Mohawk people of Kanehsatake, the police and eventually the army. The Oka Crisis, which lasted 78 days and drew worldwide attention, had a profound impact on Indigenous peoples in Canada. It set the tone for Indigenous resistance throughout the ‘90s, and inspired many people & communities to take action.

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Director and Kanehsatake-native, Sonia Bonspille-Boileau, was just shy of 12 years old during the 1990 conflict, but vividly recollects the events of that summer. In this moving first-person documentary, Bonspille-Boileau takes us on a journey to discover how the Oka Crisis sparked the resurgence of Indigenous identity and ultimately helped change the course of Canadian history, igniting developments like Idle No More, the APTN network, successful and historic land negotiations, and ultimately, the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

For this film, Bonspille-Boileau traveled across Canada to interview Indigenous people from all walks of life whose stories can be directly traced back to the Oka Crisis, including: a warrior turned filmmaker; a woman who channeled grief into peacemaking; an Aboriginal Olympic athlete whose journey is a testament to perseverance and rising above adversity; and activists of the Idle No More movement whose roots began in Oka.


This 44-minute documentary, which will air on CBC-TV’s new documentary series, FIRSTHAND, on November 19 at 9pm (9:30pm NT), is Executive Produced by Catherine Bainbridge Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick and Ernest Webb of Rezolution Pictures, an Aboriginal-owned TV and film production company and produced by Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick and Lisa Roth, the same team that produced the multiple-Gemini and Peabody Award-winning film, Reel Injun, as well as several award-winning documentaries and television series, including Mohawk Girls, Smoke Traders, Club Native and Down The Mighty River.

To complement the broadcast of The Oka Legacy, a web-exclusive short film, entitled Oka 101, shot by director Sonia Bonspille-Boileau and a timeline of the events of the Oka crisis are online at www.cbc.ca/firsthand/episodes/the-oka-legacy. Unfortunately only available for Canadian audiences.

The Oka Legacy airs on CBC-TV – Thursday, November 19 at 9pm (9:30pm NT).

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About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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