________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 4 . . . . October 19, 2001

cover Lost Songs.

Clint Tourangeau (Director). Elaine Moyah & Jerry Krepakevich (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2000.
24 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 057.

Subject Heading:
Tuberculosis patients-Alberta-Edmonton.
Indians of North America-Health and Hygiene-Alberta.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

** /4

Although Aboriginal Canadians constitute approximately 5% of the country's total population, their incidence of tuberculosis is seven times higher. Furthermore, tuberculosis has been an ongoing health problem: recurrent outbreaks throughout the twentieth century have nearly destroyed some communities, and, in the 1950's, TB raged at serious levels. Both the old and young were stricken, and the Government of Canada sought to control the disease by relocating Aboriginal patients to care and treatment facilities, frequently far from their homes. Given the isolated nature of many northern communities, and the nature of tuberculosis treatment during that time, it would seem that few other options existed. Whatever the alternatives, hospitalization at large urban centers, such as the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital in Edmonton, was usually the way that cases were handled.

     Lost Songs combines the stories of former patients and relatives of those who died in these facilities, archival film footage, and still photos detailing life at the Hospital. Chronic, long-term illness is, in itself, an isolating experience. No hospital environment ever really feels like home, and, even when family and friends are near, interaction with them is just not the same as it is in the day-to-day context of domestic life. Finding oneself uprooted, cut off from family and a familiar culture, was obviously a hard experience, and the first-person narratives are often poignant, the memories difficult to recount. Watching the video, we wonder what led medical personnel to sanction practices such as "casting"- placing young patients in full or partial body casts to keep them immobile. Was it callous indifference, a failure to see their patients as people, or was it the only option available to keep young, active children from running around and re-infecting others?

     The stories and pictures are haunting, and it is clear that, for those who spent several childhood years in these hospitals, there is a tremendous void and loss that persists to this day. However, as I listened to these stories of lost childhood or of elders bereft of the opportunity to share their final gifts with their community, I wondered what else might have been done for them at that time. That their stories have been told ensures that the songs are not entirely lost. It takes courage to re-tell the story of a difficult time in one's youth, and the participants are to be commended for their courage in facing their memories and sharing them with us. Despite its merits, I think that Lost Songs has very limited curricular application. Senior high classes in Native studies might find it offers an interesting study in the government's health policy towards its Aboriginal citizens. Preview the film before deciding whether it can be used effectively in your collection.

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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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364