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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Several community members were able to view the premiere of a new documentary about the work being done at Tse’K’wa, formally known as the Charlie Lake cave.
Stewards of Tse’k’wa, produced by Bamboo Shoots for Telus community programming, premiered locally last Thursday at the Lido Theatre. The film is expected to debut across the country to Telus subscribers in November.
The Tse’k’wa Heritage Society hosted the premiere in recognition of National Truth and Reconciliation Day by donating the event’s proceeds to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
Alyssa Currie, executive director of the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society, says she was happy with the turnout.
“We just got all the permissions in order to showcase the film on Tuesday, and today’s Thursday, and we have a full house,” she said.
“It was so great to see the interest from the community, the support from the community. To have some of our elders come and drum for us and start off in such a good way. I feel so good about it.”
Currie describes the film as an opportunity for them to show where the society is as an organization and their plans for the future.
“It’s a documentary, literally, of the progress that we’ve made so far. That progress has been hard fought, hard-won by a lot of really dedicated people in the community and the board,” she said.
“It’s great to see that come to fruition and to see literally on the big screen the fruits of our labour.”
She calls it another win for the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society.
In May and June 2022, the University of Northern BC-led archeological field school at the National Tse’K’Wa Historic Site uncovered several artifacts, which began last year when the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society approached the province about doing modern excavations at the site.
The cave was first documented by archaeologist Knut Fladmark, with SFU, in 1974 while conducting a field investigation for the Bennett Dam. He returned with Dr. Jon Driver, another SFU professor, to excavate the discovery in 1983, 1990 and 1991.
Tse’K’wa was designated as a historical site by Parks Canada in 2019, the only one in Northeast B.C., and was purchased by local First Nations in 2012.
Also this past year, the society has begun work on improving accessibility at the site.
While the field study was taking place, Bamboo Shoots was in Fort St. John filming another project.
Currie says the production company employees talked to community members about where to get some interesting shots, and they recommended Tse’k’wa.
“Dave Roberts from Bamboo Shoots reached out to us and said, ‘we have this opportunity supported by Telus to come out and document the work you’re doing,'” she explained.
“And what originally started as a 30-minute feature turned into a full hour-long documentary that has been months of work.”
Currie says she did a “soft review” of the material about a month before the premiere, and Tse’k’wa Heritage Society’s president Garry Oker also got a sneak peek to comment on the cultural aspects of the film.
Some final changes were made before the society reached out to both Bamboo Shoots and Telus for permission to screen the film in Fort St. John as a part of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
The premiere on Thursday was the first time anyone besides the producers, Oker, and Currie, had seen the film.
“I looked around a few times in the theatre to see people’s reactions, and it was so exciting to see people just entranced with the film and to see people really absorbing what we’re putting out there and the work that we’re doing,” she said.
The film will be premiering officially during Telus’ Community Programming later this year, and Currie says the society plans on doing more showings during that time.
“We really, really wanna do screenings in each of the stakeholder communities and be able to show those communities the work that their youth and their members are doing at the site,” Currie said.
“We think it’s important, and we want as many people as possible to see it.”
Currie also wanted to thank Urban Systems for paying for the cost of the venue in order for a proceeds to be donated.
“We think it’s really important that the IRSS is supported , especially on the eve of Reconciliation Day. So we’re really thankful to them to help us help residential school survivors,” she added.
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