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Telus Originals offers free streaming of s-yéwyáw / AWAKEN documentary about the power of Indigenous storytelling

Barbara Higgins x wu’ p’ a’ lich is one of four Elders who share their wisdom in s-yéwyáw / AWAKEN.

A highly regarded B.C. film bearing witness to Indigenous elders’ teachings can now be streamed across Canada. Telus Originals and Hollywood Suite have made the documentary s-yéwyáw / AWAKEN available at no charge following the film’s theatrical run last year.

Directed by Liz Marshall (Meat the Future), the Telus Originals film takes viewers on an intergenerational journey. Through discussions with four Elders, viewers learn how disrespecting the land is inextricably linked to harms to Indigenous people. In one riveting and memorable scene, musician, medicine woman, and tattoo artist Ecko Aleck interviews her father Terry, a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation. She asks him to describe the day he was taken to an Indian residential school.

Three other elders—the now-deceased Barbara Higgins x wu’ p’ a’ lich, Calvin Craigan Hiwus, and Wayne Christian Wenecwtsin—also share their wisdom. They speak on a range of subjects with two other central characters, Alfonso Salinas and Charlene SanJenko.

Salinas is a traditional wellness coordinator with the shíshálh Nation. SanJenko is a former Gibsons town councillor. She was born into the Splatsin First Nation and was adopted into a non-Indigenous home during the Sixties Scoop.

The two of them and Aleck share the writing credit for s-yéwyáw / AWAKEN. One of the film’s major achievements comes by revealing the power of Indigenous oral storytelling in resisting colonial oppression.

In an interview with Pancouver last year, Aleck said that oral teachings around medicine and ceremony survived to the present day despite a 66-year ban on potlatches.

“The oral storytelling is how we have managed to revitalize as Indigenous people,” she added.

Watch the trailer for s-yéwyáw / AWAKEN.

Learn more about the communities that make up Canada on the Toronto Spark website.


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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Toronto Spark editor Charlie Smith has worked as a journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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Arts for Canadians Tomorrow Society is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered on this land, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples whose arts and stories inspire us to bring communities together.