(MCC Photo/Carlie Haegy)

Brad and Andy Leitch at the MCC Centre in Saskatoon, SK.

In mid August Brad and Andy Leitch stopped by the MCC Centre in Saskatoon for a quick meeting. The newlywed couple from Winnipeg had just spent over a week filming interviews with various members of the Young Chippewayan Band and Mennonite and Lutheran communities living around Laird, SK. As they sit down they look at each other and exhale. It has been a busy day.

Brad, a filmmaker, was involved with the Student Christian Movement Manitoba when he first read about Stoney Knoll, a sacred gathering and burial place that is part of a First Nation land claim North of Saskatoon (learn more about Stoney Knoll here). Inspired by indigenous youths in Central and Eastern Canada like the Nishiyuu Walkers, Brad took part in what was called an honour walk from Stoney Knoll to Edmonton before the beginning of the last Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in March 2014. Since then Brad has been planning the production of a short documentary about Stoney Knoll, its history and how the three communities that have strong connections to this place have formed relationships over the last four decades.

Both Brad and Andy are clearly excited about this project. They explain that Brad, who brings the expertise of film production and Andy, who conducts research and pre-interviews, have found the interviewing stage of the project to be a therapeutic experience. Learning more about this story has challenged them personally and developed their own way of thinking. In the interviews they have found that often people start by stating that they don’t know much about the history of land claims and settlements in their area and that they feel powerless to do something about it. As people open up and start telling their own story, they realize that they have already been involved in some way and that they in fact have the power to do something. Telling their story is one way of acting to bring about reconciliation.

Before each interview, Brad and Andy pray and say a blessing for the person they are about to interview. They also pray for the participant’s family and more broadly for healing and reconciliation to be a result of the telling of their story. It is important to Brad and Andy that their own participation in this project would not be harmful, but beneficial to healing and restoration. For Indigenous participants they prepare tabacco-ties, which they then carry into the interview with a prayer for wisdom. The goal of the documentary, Brad emphasizes, is not to tell people what to think about land claim issues, but rather to chronicle the journey that Mennonites, Lutherans and the Young Chippewayans have been on together here in Saskatchewan. He adds, “we feel responsible to tell this story in a way that honours all those who are involved.”

When asked what their hopes are for this documentary, they both strongly answer that they hope the documentary will make people curious to find out what the issues are around them. Brad suggests, “We suspect this story will build bridges of understanding, encourage others to become educated on land claim issues in their own contexts, and empower others to transform conflict through community building and meaningful action.” Their own curiosity about the history of Stoney Knoll is at the heart of this project for them.

The first draft of the documentary is expected to be finished later this fall. Follow Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan on Facebook or MCC Sask on Twitter to see updates on this project.