Film documents aboriginal woman’s healing journey

By on April 1, 2005

The life of a woman from an aboriginal reserve near Brandon, Man., gets the big-screen treatment on April 5, when Anglican Video premieres its new film Topahdewin: The Gladys Cook Story at the Imax Theatre in Winnipeg.

Gladys Cook, a 74-year-old native woman from the Sioux Valley Reserve, is the recipient of a 1996 Governor General’s Award for promoting women’s rights, a Manitoba premier’s award for volunteer work and the Order of Rupert’s Land, a diocesan award. Between the ages of four and 16, she was sexually abused while attending residential school. The film uses archival footage, still photography and 12 years of interviews with Ms. Cook to document how she rediscovered her faith – a blend of Christian and native spirituality – and used her experiences to help native women, addicts, prisoners and survivors of abuse. Since 1990, she and her son Jeff have sat on the Anglican Church of Canada’s residential schools working group.

The film was produced by General Synod’s video department as part of the church’s commitment to memorializing the experience of former students of residential schools. That commitment was agreed to in a 2003 settlement that capped its expenses in litigation from former students. The Manitoba premiere is being sponsored by Anglican Video, the Winnipeg-based diocese of Rupert’s Land and a local healing fund. Bishop Donald Phillips of Rupert’s Land will open the evening and the screening of the video will be followed by remarks from Archbishop Terence Finlay, special representative on residential schools for the primate.

The producer, Lisa Barry, said she hopes to promote the event to other dioceses “as a way to gather people and start conversations about healing.”

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