Film screening recounts painful residential school experiences

By Costa Maragos Posted: May 22, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Elder Noel Starblanket, Knowledge Keeper at the U of R, recounts the 11 years he spent at the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret, Saskatchewan.
Elder Noel Starblanket, Knowledge Keeper at the U of R, recounts the 11 years he spent at the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret, Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of Trudy Stewart

From Up North is a documentary featuring a deeply personal and moving account of Elder Noel Starblanket and his painful experiences attending the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret, Saskatchewan.

Starblanket is the University’s Knowledge Keeper, providing support for students at the Aboriginal Student Centre and the campus at large.
The short documentary is written and directed by Regina filmmaker Trudy Stewart who is from the Flying Dust First Nation in Saskatchewan and a U of R Alumni who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video production.

The film is focused on Starblanket, but also features Stewart’s calming voice, reflecting on her time listening to survivors’ stories and her connection to the Indian residential school legacy.

From Up North, has been selected to be shown at the Wairoa Māori Film Festival in Wairoa, New Zealand. The film will also be screened at the U of R Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30. The screening is to raise funds for Starblanket’s travel costs to New Zealand. A ‘Go Fund Me’ page has been set up for donations.

Noel and Trudy shared their thoughts about this project.

Noel, how do you feel about this project?
It is educational for a lot of people, that the hurt actually happened and forgiveness has to happen. These stories need to be told.

From Up North Poster
From Up North will be screened on campus May 24 to raise funds in support of Noel Starblanket’s travel expenses to attend the screening at the Wairoa Māori Film Festival in New Zealand.

Trudy, what attracted you to Noel’s story?

I was attracted to Noel's story because he has had a long healing journey from his time at residential school and he does so much work in
the community helping others understand the Indian Residential School legacy and its effects. He is open to talking about his painful experiences
at residential school in order to educate others. I felt it was an important story to share.

Noel, what makes it so important for you to share your story in such a public way?

It’s always about education. When I’ve asked elders about all of these experiences, they’ve always told me that education, though it’s drawn out and tedious, it is necessary to educate people and the things that have happened. Where we are and where we want to be in terms of reconciliation. Most of the people that I have spoken to are of good mind and good hearts and that’s really bolstered my own commitment.  

Trudy, what does it mean to have your work screened half a world away?

It means so much to me to get to screen the documentary at the Wairoa Māori Film Festival. The festival is putting the spotlight on films from Turtle Island and I'm honoured to be one of the filmmakers getting to screen their work in New Zealand. It will mean even more to me with Noel there to share his story in New Zealand. New Zealand never had residential schools, so they are very interested in learning more about our history and how we are moving forward from it.

You feel however that it is as important to have your film shown here at the U of R. Why is that?

The screening of From Up North on May 24 is for the community that supported us and gave us so much. I wanted to share our story with our hometown crowd before it goes on the festival circuit and out into the world.  Having the premiere in New Zealand is a dream come true, but having our friends and family support us here makes it even better. We are very grateful for the amazing support system here in Saskatchewan for our work.

Noel, as a Knowledge Keeper at the University, you have observed the University’s Indigenization efforts. What are your thoughts about this?
There’s a great awareness that has been happening at the University of Regina campus and I am extremely happy to be a part of it. It is continuing to happen so I always brag about the University of Regina as being a leader in reconciliation in the country. From what I see and read, the University of Regina is making great strides and they’re ahead of a lot of people in terms of this awareness and this education in bringing students to the recognition of that history towards reconciliation. That’s very positive and I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Event:   From Up North (Film screening)
Date:    Wednesday, May 24
Time:    7 p.m.
Venue:  Research and Innovation Centre (RIC) Theatre 119

This event is free and open to the public. Donations are encouraged in support of Noel’s travel expenses to attend the screening at the Wairoa Māori Film Festival in New Zealand.

The U of R film screening is sponsored by the Aboriginal Student Centre, Campion College, Department of Film and the Faculty of Education.