The white man’s camera: the national film board of Canada and representations of Indigenous peoples in post-war Canada
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This dissertation examines the ways in which the National Film Board (NFB) delivered and promoted, through the medium of documentary films, Canadian government policies regarding Indigenous people to the Canadian population, as well as to Indigenous people, from the late 1940’s to the mid-1960s. The framework for the writing was that of an Indigenous scholar. This promotes the examination of an issue within the knowledge of the problem from experience and that methods such as storytelling are legitimate ways of viewing and sharing knowledge. The question driving the research was, were the filmmakers following government policy and is there any evidence of Indigenous agency. During the post-war period Canada was experiencing a boom in the economy, population growth, both natural and immigration, increased need for natural resources and a stable workforce. It was the desire of the federal government that Indigenous people assimilate into the general population and adopt the cultural norms of Canada. However, in the post-war period, government policy shifts also sought to enlighten Canadians about who Indigenous peoples ‘really were’, from an anthropological, colonial point of view. The documentary The Longhouse People on the Six Nations Reserve was filmed with the support of the community and is the one outlier of the era. The documentaries No Longer Vanishing and Off to School presents a picture of Indigenous peoples as the former ‘noble savage’ now made suited for laboring in the tough jobs of the new Canadian economy and paints a glorified picture of residential schools. Because They Are Different portrays negative stereotypes and implies the differences between Canadian society and the Indigenous population was the fault of the Indigenous people. These documentaries did not serve to advance the assimilation of Indigenous people into mainstream society. Neither did the films support attitudinal change among white Canadians. It should be noted that this work deals with difficult and sensitive subject matter, particularly should readers choose to view the films under study (all of which are publicly available online at nfb.ca.), and some readers may find the subject matter triggering and /or distressing.