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Support Info: If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419. Additional Health Support Information: Emotional, cultural, and professional support services are also available to Survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program. Services can be accessed on an individual, family, or group basis.” These & regional support phone numbers are found at https://nctr.ca/contact/survivors/ .

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Friday, January 21, 2022

FILM: This is Not A Ceremony

 Sundance Film Festival: This Is Not a Ceremony is having its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (January 20–30, 2022).

‘This Is Not A Ceremony’
Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)

Canadian Ahnahktsipiitaa, also known as Colin Van Loon, is Blackfoot and Dutch, hailing from The Piikani Nation.

His cinematic virtual reality production, “This is Not A Ceremony,” part of the Sundance New Frontier program, is described as “darkly humorous and occasionally caustic,” telling the story of Adam North Peigan, Robert Sinclair and others, and the struggles and conflicts of growing up as an Indigenous man, according to the Sundance website.

Van Loon is the lead artist, and the production included key collaborators Olivier Leroux, James Monkman and Jessica Dymond.

He grew up with his mother in Lethbridge and other southern Alberta towns in Canada.

“I really love our people, and when I say ‘our’ I mean Piikani and Niitsitapi as a whole,” he told Indian Country Today. “I am Blackfoot/Niitsitapi as well as Dutch. I am very Blackfoot-centric but try to remain inclusive to other nations and their ways. I wanted everyone to feel they were represented fairly.”

The virtual reality production, "This is Not a Ceremony," by lead artist Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), is an official selection of the New Frontier Program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

He was raised by his mother and grandmother, Edith North Peigan, whose name later became Van Loon.

“Edith was very much a victim of disenfranchisement, even though her husband, my grandfather Buddy Van Loon, was also Blackfoot through his mother, and our Kainai relations, the Holloway family,” he said.

Van Loon said nonetheless they remained close to their kin in the North Peigan family.

“When I was a younger man I was very close with Jimmy Small Legs, a cousin to Edith and me," he said. “Jim was able to show me a great deal of our Piikani traditions. This had major impacts on me growing up and it often shows up in my work. Jimmy and his wife Joanne adopted me in our Niitsitapi tradition, so I also refer to Jim as my grandfather and Joanne as my grandmother, as is common practice within The Blackfoot confederacy Piikani, Siksika and Kainai and Aamskapi Pikuni.”

The importance of family is evident in his work, he said.

Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Blackfoot and Dutch, is lead artist of the cinematic virtual reality production, "This is Not a Ceremony," an official selection of the New Frontier section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Luis Alvarez, courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“Family, kinship and reciprocity are values that show up in my work,” he said. “Adam North Peigan is my relation, and I wanted to showcase his story, as these moments are clear examples of systematic racism in Canada, and it’s an important story to tell in the framework of reconciliation.”

He continued, “There can be no reconciliation without truth, and both stories, Robert Sinclair and Brian Sinclair’s, and Adam North Peigan’s, are part of this. Additionally, Adam is a political advocate, working for our people and Survivors within the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta and the Legacy of Hope Foundation. I wanted to support him and his work in some small way.”

He wants the audience to leave with a sense of the impact of the virtual reality storytelling experience.

“I wanted both Indigenous and settler audiences to see the strength and resilience of Adam North Peigan and Robert Sinclair,” he said. “For White settlers specifically, I hope it affects them and they feel compelled to bear witness and try to make changes within the national community of Canada, to do something about systemic racism and discrimination.

“Virtual reality (VR) brings the audience closer to the storytellers,” he said. “hey can see them up close, hear what they have to say, and feel it not only in their minds, but viscerally and in their hearts as well. I want settler audiences to feel uncomfortable, and I want them to take that discomfort and think about it and act on it. I hope this connection makes audiences feel more compelled to uphold their responsibility as a witness.”

He continued, “I am hoping that Indigenous audiences will see the incredible strength, dedication and tenacity of Adam North Peigan and Robert Sinclair, with their continued efforts.”

Van Loon is the operations manager for the Indigenous Matriarchs 4 AR/VR media lab (IM4-Lab), and he sits on the Telefilm Indigenous Working Group, among others. He works to elevate the voices and stories of Indigenous peoples in his community by creating spaces for youth works in the Talking Stick’s Festivals REEL Reservation: Indigenous Cinematic Indigenous Sovereignty Series, or through his company, Blackfoot Nation Films.

Sundance Institute Meet the Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)

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Canada's Residential Schools

The religious organizations that operated the schools — the Anglican Church of Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Jesuits of English Canada and some Catholic groups — in 2015 expressed regret for the “well-documented” abuses. The Catholic Church has never offered an official apology, something that Trudeau and others have repeatedly called for.

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Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

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Did you know?

New York’s 4o-year battle for OBC access ended when on January 15 2020, OBCs were opened to all New York adoptees upon request without restriction. In only three days, over 3,600 adoptees filed for their record of birth. The bill that unsealed records was passed 196-12.

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As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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