By Felicia Tugak, IAYI Intern

For the month of November, we have been documenting a film series of Indigenous artists who share their life story through art. The purpose of this was not only an opportunity to show films but it brought us together to talk about the movies some people hadn’t seen. Lori Beavis, an Artist in Residence, has been organizing these events to recognize culture identity.


Roberts Paintings – Shelley Niro.

(2011, 52 min. documentary/family/drama directed by Shelley Niro)

Director Shelley Niro (Mohawk) is a photographer, painter, sculptor, bead worker, multimedia artist and independent filmmaker. She is a member of the Turtle Clan as Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. Niro’s work has been shown across Canada, the USA and internationally. Roberts Paintings is her third full-length film.

Robert was a young man who came from Manitoba. He tells us about his experience during the time he was a student in a residential school. He also mentioned that his sister was his main supporter who was always there for him and encouraged him to do his art. While teaching, he uses his childhood memories to capture a whole life story.



Kissed by Lightning – Shelly Niro

(2009, 1h29min. drama/family/history directed by Shelley Niro)

The film was based on screen play written by Shelley Niro. The movie was based on a love story of a Iriqois Legend of Peacemaker. Mavis, who was a widow at a young age began a new relationship with another man. She was a painter who painted memories of her late husband, Jesse Lightning. She still finds it hard to move on with her life and new spouse. When her paintings were shown at a Art Exhibition in New York City, she went on a road trip to deliver her paintings herself and attend the event. On the way down to New York City, she made a pit stop at Lightning’s grandmothers place, which is where her husband was raised. The real reason why she made a stop there was to ask for acceptance to move on with her life and new lover. Mavis couldn’t bear the pain of her husband’s departure and she asked for respect from her husband’s family to move on.



Honey Moccasin – Shelley Niro

(1998, 47min directed by Shelley Niro)

Shelly Niro is a well known Mohawk artist who directs this provocative film on sexual identity. This film combined with proformance art questions traditional conventions and was like a comical relief on sexual status. The community had a thief who broke into places and stole tradional powwow dresses. More and more people’s work, which took a whole year to make, was stolen. The whole town felt that it needed to come to a stop. And that is when Honey Moccasin, a bar owner at the “Smokin’ Moccasin” decided to become a detective. At first she was questioned even though she would never do such a thing. She decided to go on a little investigation herself. She found clues which took her to the other bar, “The Inukshuk Care” owned by Zachary John. Zachary John was a man who hid his sexual identity and other things he did in the community.  Honey spied on Zachary and she snickered at him because she did not expect to see him dressed up in women’s tradition powwow dresses. It all came to a surprise to her. He was ashamed of being caught as a thief and was trying to hide his sexuality. But with the help he had from his community, he came out and did the right thing, returning all of the stolen powwow dresses.



Before Tomorrow by Marie-Helene Cosineau and Madeline Ivalu

(2008, 1h33min drama/indie film directed by Marie-Helene Cousineau, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu)

This was a bit strange but profoundly intriguing. It was set during the time when whalers/explorers started to sail the arctic. Inuit in the early years always hunted together for harvesting. A person who was passing by came to make a quick stop, and of course he was welcomed into the Inuit camp. He told stories of how he met new comers and how they traded things. The visitor explained, “the guy in the big boat traded his sharp metal needle in return to sleep with the Inuit girls on their camp.” The boat brought terrible diseases but the guy knew that the Inuit women would want the sharp metal needles.

A family of Inuit made plans for elder lady Ningiuq to go to the island and prepare all the dry meat to last the entire year.  Ningiuq’s grandson Maniq, who was too young to hunt wanted to prove to his father that he is able to work hard as a man. And he did. Just before leaving, Ningiuq’s long-time friend begged to follow even though she was in no condition. Maniq and his grandmother take off from the island to go back home, only to find their entire family died of small pox. It was just like the visitor’s storytelling to Ningiuq’s family. As the two moved away to try to find other Inuit to survive, they got caught in a rainstorm. They quickly moved into a cave and used the cave for shelter, staying there until Maniq’s puppies grow up.