- By Jenna Kunze
“Two weeks later, when I called Emmy back and said I’d be open to collaborating, she told me the First Nation was the Williams Lake First Nation and the school was St. Joseph’s Mission,” NoiseCat wrote. “Of 139 Indian residential schools across Canada, Emily happened to choose the school that still looms over the life of my family, my father and myself.”In late 2021, Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) began conducting its own nine-month investigation into potentially unmarked graves at its former residential school, St. Joseph’s Mission. First Nations Chief Willie Sellars announced the findings in late : the potential burial sites of at least 50 Indigenous children were found on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School was open from 1891 and 1981 on land less than three miles from the Williams Lake First Nation. The school was operated by various religious sects, though it was controlled by Roman Catholic missionaries as part of the residential school system set up by the Government of Canada. It was one of an estimated 139 residential schools named by the Canadian government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, though historians say that number doesn’t encompass the full picture. For decades, there were reports of neglect and abuse at the St. Joseph Mission that were ignored or, in some cases, destroyed, Sellars said. Records show that, on one occasion, nine students intentionally ingested poison hemlock in an attempt to commit mass suicide to escape the school, leading to one death. Several members of the clergy that served the St. Joseph Mission were tried and convicted of sexual crimes against children in the 1990s. Since its premiere, "Sugarcane" has received praise from outlets including Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap and was selected as the Critic’s Pick for Indie Wire. “Sugarcane’s sensitivity to the ongoing pain of its subjects is one of the film’s principal achievements,” ’s Lovia Gyarkye wrote. “NoiseCat and Kassie offer an affecting portrait of a community that endures in spite of colonial genocide.” IndieWire’s Esther Zuckerman that those who come to documentaries looking for resolution might be slightly disappointed with ‘Sugarcane.’ “That’s in part because so many of the victims and perpetrators are dead and in part because of how memories go suppressed or unacknowledged,” she wrote. “‘Sugarcane’ doesn’t force conclusions that aren’t there. Instead, it lets the empty parts of the saga linger so the ghosts of what transpired feel present. It means, ultimately, that ‘Sugarcane’ is something more meaningful than a mere history lesson. It’s a portrait of what remains when injustice occurs.”
More Stories Like ThisQ&A: Native Filmmaker Erica Tremblay on Her Debut Feature Film, 'Fancy Dance'
++ILLUMINATE++ Brings Indigenous Dance, Song and Fashion to Center of Contemporary Art in Santa Fe
Native Actress Lily Gladstone Wins SAG Best Actress Award on Saturday Night
Here's What's Going in Indian Country, February 23rd —29th
Bay Area's Trailblazing Two-Spirit Organization Turns 25
Native Perspective. Native Voices. Native News.
We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.