The Ice Walk Docu-series

The Ice Walk docu-series exposes a hidden history of the exile of Prince Edward Island’s original people, explores present day efforts to rectify these injustices, and challenges the viewer to reflect on what they will do now that they know the truth.

This docu-series follows several Mi’kmaq Elders who tell the little known history of the Mi’kmaq people who were forced by the government to settle on Lennox Island, which was not connected to mainland PEI. In the winter they risked their lives to cross the ice to get provisions and hospital care. Many lives were lost. It wasn’t until a pregnant woman almost perished in the 70’s that a bridge was built.

The fact that people who have lived in PEI their whole lives don’t know about this history is shocking, but what is more shocking are the stories that have been lost within the community itself.

In 2019 a discussion between Mi’kmaq Elder, Senator Brian Francis, and his ally friend, PEI musician, Tara MacLean, about this lost history sparked a reconciliation project meant to educate and commemorate those lost on the ice. Allies were to walk the original ice crossing from the mainland to Lennox Island to ask the community for forgiveness. The project found itself in jeopardy several times due to Covid and to an unprecedented lack of ice due to climate change. And as the day drew near, news broke of DFO moderate livelihood fishery plans which would restrict Mi’kmaq fishing in their own waters. The community was starting to feel like maybe forgiveness was not appropriate at this time. The walk finally took place and allies including Tara, Senator Francis, politicians, RCMP, and others crossed the bridge led in a water ceremony by a Mi’kmaq elder. When they reached Lennox Island they were greeted by children beating hand drums and then led to a sacred fire. Allies were asked to offer tobacco and make a solemn commitment to the community. A celebration and shared feast closed out the day. The entire 3 hour event was live streamed so the hundreds of people who wanted to attend but couldn’t due to Covid regulations, could watch.

Part of this project was to create a 60 minute docu-series. Funders include: Innovation PEI, Fibe TV1, and Canada Council for the Arts. The documentary is a true reflection of reconciliation in action. Made up of Mi’kmaq and ally crew, the team has been working together as a family to help decolonize the process. Led by Mi’kmaq director, Eliza Knockwood, each shoot day starts and ends with ceremony to ensure any material that is recorded is done so with integrity and with the intention of becoming medicine. Scheduling takes into consideration that Elders cannot be interrupted when telling their stories. And only Mi’kmaq crew are allowed into sacred spaces and to be present for Elder interviews to ensure that Elders do not feel restrained in what they would like to share.

This series, though supported by allies, is Mi’kmaq owned and told from a Mi’kmaq perspective.

It has been a great form of education for the ally crew to be able to experience filmmaking in this way and to be present for very powerful moments of transformation.

Since the walk, the Mi’kmaq team continue to film for the series but have also started working together on other projects.

We anticipate this powerful series will be released in 2021 on FibeTV1 and then released more widely in 2022.