Ninth Biennial Conference of the Swedish Association for American Studies

Activity: Participating in or organising an academic or articstic eventConferencesResearch

Sabrina Völz - Speaker

Documenting Oral History, Memory, and Lessons in Truth Telling – Nadia McLaren’s Muffins For Granny and Tim Wolochatiuk’s We Were Children

Residential schools represent one of the most horrifying chapters in recent Canadian history. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the Canadian government began to investigate residential schools as a way of furthering the assimilation of First Nations’ children, but by the 1920s, school attendance had become mandatory for all indigenous children in Canada, and residential schools the preferred alternative. As a result, over 100,000 indigenous children were taken from their families and communities and placed in mostly off-reserve schools which sought to “kill the Indian and save the Man” or in this case child through conversion to Christianity, coerced assimilation, paternalism as well as the propagation of EuroCanadian values. 
 Appearing in 2008, Nadia McLaren’s participatory documentary, Muffins for Granny: Stories From Survivors of the Canadian Residential School System, fuses interviews with six First Nations’ elders with creative Native interludes as well as the director’s home movies of her own alcoholic, but loving Ojibway grandmother. Tim Wolochatiuk’s We Were Children (2012) also fosters understanding of Canadian history through indigenous ways of knowing and storytelling. Using reflexive modes of documentary filmmaking and re-enactments, this major film tells the stories of Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart, two residential school survivors. Although their documentary styles are quite different, both films share similar themes: tender recollections of happy childhoods in First Nation communities, the separation trauma, residential school curriculum and life, abuse in many forms, intergenerational violence as well as renewal and healing. Building on the work of Bill Nichols, I will explore the innovative filmmaking style of these films, discuss the cinematic representation of oral history and the survivors’ conflicted identities as they seek to overcome their past and challenge the ‘master’ narrative
Ninth Biennial Conference of the Swedish Association for American Studies


Ninth Biennial Conference of the Swedish Association for American Studies


Gothenburg, Sweden

Event: Conference