________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004


The Spirit of Annie Mae.

Catherine Anne Martin (Director). Kent Martin (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2002.
73 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9102 070

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**½ /4


A young aboriginal woman looks through the sights of her rifle and states:

As a police officer, I've looked at hundreds of people in the eye, who've committed crimes. They've looked me in the eye and they've lied to me; they've looked me in the eye without emotion. I'd like to look in the eyes of the people who murdered my mother. (Debbie Maloney, daughter of Annie Mae Aquash)


Almost three decades have passed since Annie Mae Pictou Aquash's death on a deserted road in South Dakota. She was killed, execution-style, with a single shot to the head, and at the time of her killing, she was unidentified, buried as a "Jane Doe." Later, the 30-year-old activist was exhumed and re-buried. Who is her killer? Why did it happen? Annie Mae's death remains unsolved, and these unanswered questions remain a source of pain to her family, her friends, and associates both in Canada and the American Indian Movement (AIM) of the 1970's and 1980's.

     The Spirit of Annie Mae traces her thirty years of existence, from her early years on the poverty-stricken Shubenacadie Reservation, through her move to Boston, where she intensified her connection with her native heritage. During her time in Boston, her marriage to Jake Maloney fell apart, perhaps due to the stresses of a life that was precarious and chaotic, as well as her increasing involvement with and commitment to American Native political activities. Personal recollections of Jake, her daughters, family, friends, recount the story of a beautiful and spirited young woman, proud of her roots, driven by a desire to correct long-standing injustices. Like many caught up in the social and political turmoil of the late 1960's and 1970's, Annie Mae came under the scrutiny of the FBI, and there are many who believe that federal agents are responsible for her tragically early death on that lonely stretch of road.

     The strengths (and personal weaknesses) of Annie Mae emerge clearly in the video. Although her primary political involvement was in the American Indian Movement, she maintained a strong sense of connection to Canada as well. While this is a powerful story, I was left wondering how it might best be used in a classroom. I think that many students would lack the historical knowledge necessary to fit her story into the greater context of the history of Native American activism. The video is a bit lengthy, no doubt the result of trying to honour the needs of so many who had so much to remember and recall of her. Nevertheless, I am certain many students, especially young native women, would find her story an inspiring one, and given that the stories of the marginalized are often forgotten, it is worthwhile that The Spirit of Annie Mae is kept alive in this medium, as well.

Recommended with Reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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