By Randolph Lewis
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Extra resources for Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker
Perhaps we can glimpse something of her adolescent experience through creative refraction, through the wild lens of her friend Leonard Cohen’s imagination. Like Obomsawin, Cohen, a Jewish bohemian, was a cultural outsider in white Christian Canada. After he switched from writing celebrated novels and poetry in 1966, just before Obomsawin began her turn from singing to ﬁlmmaking, he morphed into a counterculture icon the likes of which Canada had never seen. 0pt P ——— Normal P PgEnds: , (16 ABENAKI BEGINNINGS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 lyrical richness that seems out of place in contemporary popular music, it is in his creative writing, not his songs, that we can ﬁnd traces of Obomsawin.
Sir, I have the honor to report that the Abenakis are destroyed,” Major Rogers tells his delighted superiors. While the rest of the audience cheered these words, young Bruchac sat silent in the theater, suddenly fearful. “That movie had made me afraid,” he said. The connection between Bruchac and Obomsawin is more than tribal. The ﬁlmmaker grew up a few hours north across the Canadian border from the best-selling writer, whose Abenaki family name, Bowman, is an Anglicized version of Obomsawin, making them distant relatives.
19 Between Panadis and her Aunt Alanis, the young Obomsawin had a wealth of traditional knowledge at her ﬁngertips, something she appreciates to this day. “Those two people gave me something special and strong,” she remembers. ”20 The good times did not last for long. In 1941, when Obomsawin was nine, her family left the reserve and moved to Three Rivers, a Frenchspeaking town just up the river. “That’s when the trouble began,” she remembers. No other Native people lived in the town, and she was forced to learn French as quickly as she could.