Uplifting. Effective. Right.

Jules Koostachin is a film-maker, a Cree born in Moose Factory, Ontario. She is the mother of four boys, including a set of twins, and the captivating and enlightening keynote speaker for Burnaby students who attended the BC Civil Liberties Association conference in November.

IMG_7990Jules offered deep insights to how the impact of residential school life on one child can percolate into families through future generations. Her mother survived residential school but her relationship with her daughter barely did. Jules credits her grandparents who helped raise Jules and her brother for saving her from the emotional hardships of her mother but she didn’t necessarily escape a difficult life. Through her extended family in the Attiwapiskat First Nation in the Moshkehowok territory, she and her sibling were able to build deep connections to traditions and to the land.

Land is a ubiquitous concept in indigenous culture. Students are familiar with formal acknowledgements, of the territory on which they are learning, given at school and community presentations. Jules reminded the audience that it is “always relevant to acknowledge indigenous lands” adding that it’s because “there’s always land beneath our feet, and it is always stolen”.

Jules’ life and opportunities reflect a struggle and a passion. Her university career began after a cycle of homelessness and a significant meeting with a university admissions official, convincing him of her worth. Ultimately, Jules received her degree and is now soon to finish her PhD at the University of British Columbia. With many productions behind her, she shared her CBC-aired documentary called, “NiiSoTeWak: Two Bodies, One Heart” with the students attending the BCCLA youth conference. In it, her twin boys consider cultural concepts together and with their older brothers and parents.

The film was fascinating and uplifting, a great introductory piece to a conference known to give social justice meaning and depth through modern example. Kudos to Iman Baobeid, Outreach and Communications Coordinator at the BCCLA! And to Burnaby students who braved the rain and a ridiculously early schedule to attend.