Documentary Addresses Residential School System

(November 24, 2008 – Thunder Bay, ON) As part of the Indigenous Knowledge/Cultural Awareness series, the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives will host a public screening of the film Sleeping Children Awake, with producer Rhonda Kara Hanah and two Residential School survivors available for discussion afterward.

This documentary-styled program produced in the early 90s was the result of a unique partnership between Thunder Bay Television, Lakehead University, and Rhonda Kara Hanah, a local independent producer.  Inspired by Shirley Cheechoo’s play "Path with no Moccasins," Sleeping Children Awake is both a personal record of Canada’s history, and a tribute to the enduring strength of Native cultures.  It features the songs of Maria Linklater and the work of various accomplished Aboriginal artists.

Production took place in 1991, and the film originally premiered at Lakehead University in 1992. “It stirred memories for many in the audience. It was one of the first times the subject of Residential Schools was brought to the screen,” says producer Rhonda Kara Kanah.  “The discussion following that screening was deep, moving, and distinctly healing.  We need to be able to talk about this part of our history in order to move forward with the healing process.  I am glad to see how far we have progressed with that process in recent years.”

According to a report by the Law Commission of Canada, Aboriginal children were the only children in the history of Canada who, over an extended period of time, were statutorily designated to live in institutions primarily because of their race.  Large numbers of school-aged Aboriginal children were sent to residential schools.  In some communities, this institutionalization continued for decades, and has affected many generations.

Beverly Sabourin, Vice-Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University, says “It is important to look at the history of the Residential School system in order to understand the scope of the harm suffered, so that we can properly address those harms. Films like Sleeping Children Awake provide us with an opportunity to talk openly, and to move forward. Doing so in the context of a University setting can be very effective.”

The screening will take place on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 4:00 p.m. on the Lakehead University campus, in room UC1017 across from Security.   The film is also available for loan at the Paterson Library at Lakehead University.


Media:  Rhonda Kara Hanah and Beverly Sabourin are available for media interview.  For more information or to arrange interview times, please contact Lisa Pelot, Communications Officer, at 343-8177, or

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,900 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit


Last updated November 25, 2008

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