CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 19 . . . . May 24, 2002
For more than 25 years, Francois Paulette has been a warrior. His battle: a fight that is more than a century old, fueled by a determination to ensure that the government of Canada fulfills the terms of the 1899 treaty made with the Thebatthi (Chipewyan) people. The promise speaks to the Honour of the Crown.
The treaties by which the British and subsequently, the Canadian, government took possession of First Nation territories are historical documents which are viewed quite differently by both parties. And those perspectives are different because of the very divergent ways in which white and Aboriginal peoples viewed the concept of land use and ownership. A century subsequent to the initial contracting of the agreement, times and viewpoints have changed drastically. Paulette's battle is waged on a variety of fronts: locally in Alberta, and far from home in Ottawa. His involvement in the fight has exacted a personal cost: his wife talks of being a virtual single parent during those many months when her husband has been away from home, focusing on his life's work. It is a major personal sacrifice, and at times, Jerry Paulette seems to question its validity. Black and white film footage of occasions of past payments of treaty money contrast with colour video clips of today's ceremony - the amount paid, however, is still the same: a mere $5.00 per person. Nevertheless, at the end of the story, the struggle seems to have been worthwhile: the Thebatthi people reclaim nine tracts of land and nearly $33 million in compensation, and Jerry Paulette's fight seems to have been worthwhile.
A worthwhile as Jerry Paulette's fight has been, is Honour of the Crown a worthwhile acquisition for school libraries? Honour of the Crown is a documentary, and although it offers glimpses into Jerry Paulette's personal struggles with his life's mission, there is a sense of distance which makes it hard for the viewer to engage in the story. Treaties are, after all, contracts, and contract law is seldom an entertaining topic for high school students. Senior students of Canadian history might find some aspects of the story interesting, and it certainly offers an interesting perspective for students in native studies courses. However, I would strongly suggest previewing the video and determining how it might fit curricular uses before acquiring it for your collection.
Recommended with reservations.
Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.