Everyday Activist - The Cherokee Word for Water (2013)

Posted on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 06:00 PM

The Cherokee Word for Water (2013)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

I managed to watch a few films on Kanopy, a Netflix like service available for free with your Calgary Public Library card. The Cherokee Word for Water, a docudrama about Wilma Mankiller, a Cherokee woman who led the Bell Waterline Project using federal supplies coupled with volunteer labor from Oklahoma reservations in the 1980s, kept popping up as something I might like to watch. Thank goodness Kanopy allows ten free films per month, because I want to watch this again and find the 2017 movie Mankiller, which provides more information about Wilma. PBS has some of the original footage available online as well as some of her other accomplishments including a health centre staffed with professionals doctors, nurses, dentists from the Cherokee Nation.

The movie starts with Wilma and her two daughters moving back to her reservation in Oklahoma from California. In 1956, the U.S government passed the Indian Relocation Act to have people leave the reservations in order to assimilate into the dominant culture. The government promised jobs, money and healthcare, though not all people received these benefits, resulting in poverty as well as trauma from culture shock. Unlike Canada’s need to separate children from their families in the ‘60s scoop, in the U.S families stayed together travelling to government designated cities for promised opportunities. While any move is tough, one across the country into a completely different culture shaped Wilma’s tenacity and gave her insight into social change.

Given all her accomplishments in social justice, I was surprised that I had never heard about her until I saw the film. Wilma passed away in 2010, but is survived by her husband Charlie Soap, whom I sincerely hope has his own TED talk soon about the power of community rather than government to solve problems, including ones concerning major infrastructure projects. The Bell Water Project had healthy opposition as did Wilma’s bid for chief, but she managed to some incredible things in her lifetime on the local and federal level. It’s refreshing to see a native woman succeed, rather than being another victim of violence.

Speaking of successful, American born, indigenious women, Alanis Obomsawin will be in Calgary on September 28th for the screening of her film Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger as part of the 20th Calgary International Film Festival 2019. I want to be her when I grow up. She recently celebrated her 87th birthday and has enough energy to continue telling important stories through film. As I spend time recovering in the Yukon, I saw a poster about Jordan’s Principle in a doctor’s office, confirming that while his death was tragic, his spirit lives on touching the lives of many indigenious people all over Canada, not just in Winnipeg. 

Calgary Showtimes: The Cherokee Word for Water (2013) >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.