Screening, Q-and-A for Prof. Celia Haig-Brown’s film ‘Listen to the Land’

Celia Haig-Brown
Celia Haig-Brown

York University’s Faculty of Education and the Institute for Research on Digital Learning (IRDL) will host a screening of Professor Celia Haig-Brown’s film Listen to the Land on Thursday, Sept. 27.

The film visually documents ways members of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach are negotiating contradictions of living with the land and an economy tied to mining.

The screening will be followed by a Q-and-A session and reception with Haig-Brown, as well as Chief Noah Swappie and community members.

Celia Haig-Brown
Celia Haig-Brown

Anderson Coward, new media and communications specialist, Faculty of Education, interviewed Haig-Brown about the project.

AC: Where did the idea for your film Listen to the Land come from?
Celia Haig-Brown: The late Professor Wes Cragg from Schulich (Schulich School of Business at York University) and the Canadian Business Ethics Research Network invited me to work with teachers in Jimmy Sandy Memorial School. I began the work with one of my doctoral students, Melissa Blimkie, and we focused on a pedagogy of the land. I have always felt that there are many lessons the land can teach us – that means land, rivers, the air and all that is in and around it. My parents started me on those lessons and many Indigenous friends and colleagues have continued to teach and discuss this idea with me. It was particularly significant for the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach because they are traditionally (and still) caribou hunters and they have invested in and work in relation to open pit iron ore mines.

AC: How is the film related to your current and ongoing research?
Celia Haig-Brown:
Most of my major research projects have involved working with Indigenous people in relation to education and schooling. My very early work focused on residential schools. I saw that work as important to allow me to think in a more informed way about the significance of Indigenous control of education and the roles white people like me might play in working toward that goal.

AC: What do you wish to communicate to viewers through the film?
Celia Haig-Brown: I would like people to see this film as first presenting a dilemma we all live with: how can we think deeply about the creation of an environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable community – wherever we live? If we want to protest mining, we need to protest the cities where most of the minerals out of the ground end up – in our cars, in our computers, and in our gold and silver jewelry. We have to learn to live differently. I also want viewers to appreciate the power of the Naskapi Nation, its language in particular.

AC: What inspired you to do a film about the Naskapi Nation?
Celia Haig-Brown:
The main inspiration came from the Naskapi language. The Naskapi have had a provincially run school since the 1980s. Within the school, the hallways, the offices and the classrooms resonate with the Naskapi language. It was so inspirational to hear the language there and then everywhere throughout the community – in the stores, in the council offices, everywhere. And though I didn’t and don’t understand much of what is being said, I do understand the power of a group of people maintaining and supporting their language over all these years of colonization. The students attend school from kindergarten to Grade 3 in the language and then continue to use it in the years following as they also work in English.

AC: What is the next step – where do you go from here?
Celia Haig-Brown: 
The Naskapi themselves on seeing the film commented, “But there is so much more.” The film makes that point too. I have directed this film with the Naskapi guiding me all the way. Now it is time for me to get out of the way and for the community, when it’s ready, to make the next one and the next one. I hope to continue to make films as a major outcome of my research. I am continuing to learn the many intricacies of the genre and will be shifting focus somewhat for the next one. Stay tuned.

Screening details

The film Listen to the Land will screen on Sept. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Nat Taylor Cinema, York University (Room: 102N Ross Building). For more information, visit the online event listing.