Alanis Obomsawin is a pioneering documentary filmmaker, singer-songwriter and Indigenous rights activist. Born in New Hampshire, she grew up on the Odanak reserve northeast of Montréal before moving to Trois-Rivières, Quebec, where hers was the only Indigenous family. Despite daily racist abuse, Obomsawin remained proud of her heritage. In her 20s, she became a popular singer-songwriter and community educator. She taught herself English by reading the Indian Act, and in 1960, made her professional debut as a folk singer in New York. A CBC interview about her concerts to raise funds for a pool for Odanak children led to the National Film Board hiring her as an advisor on a film about Indigenous people. Obomsawin directed her first NFB documentary, Christmas in Moose Factory, in 1971, and as of August 2017, had directed 50 NFB productions, all on Indigenous themes. She has received many honours, including the Order of Canada.
“So much history can be lost if no one tells the story – so that’s what I do. I tell the stories. This is my way of fighting for social change.”