2017, 16:14 minutes, colour, English
NiiSoTeWak translates to “walking the path together”, and Cree traditional teachings claim that although identical twins are born with two separate bodies, they share only one heart. Through the eyes of spirited ten-year-old Inninewak (Cree) twin boys, Tapwewin (Speaking Truth) and Pawaken (Totem) explore and question the essence of their Being in relation to the world and people around them. The twins ancestry is rooted in Attawapiskat First Nation, Moshkekowok territory, yet they lived most of their lives in urban centers; their Cree identity is informed by their parents and their grandparents cultural experiences. Like many First Nations youth today, the twins are amidst challenging times - they’re caught between what is considered contemporary and traditional worldviews, experiencing the shift between rural-to-urban settings and back again - and like many of their friends (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) they’re part of an evolving family structure merely trying to make sense of the world they have come into. In this short documentary film, we capture an honest and raw glimpse of what it is like to not only be a twin, but also the reality of being a Cree twin in unfamiliar territory, to be exact, un-ceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. Already their identity has been uprooted!
Through significant yet lighthearted exchanges with each other, as well as their parents and older siblings, adult brothers Asivak (age 22) the actor, and Mahiigan (age 20) the 6’-8” basketball player, the twins seek to uncover and at times unravel a deeper understanding of their decade old existence. The twins venture out to learn ‘what it means to be an individual in this world’, as a twin. They come to understand just how fortunate and complicated their identity really is, so they decide the best place to start is with each other. The twins are asked some pretty tough questions about the challenges of having someone identical to you, always by your side, 24-7-365, 10 years and counting. They also have the opportunity to interview their parents and their older brothers together asking some pretty innocent, yet pertinent questions around their younger years, like the significance of their names and the stories behind them, including the challenge of having to sustain the significance of cultural ways away from their home territory.
In short, viewers are gifted with the opportunity to learn and discover alongside these two energetic young boys as they address what they have learned with limited intervention from adults. Their voyage will not only allow the them the opportunity to transform and grow into more grounded youths but, hopefully, it will inform Canadians about the importance of understanding Indigenous culture from their perspective. Tapwewin and Pawaken discover that the possibilities of learning are endless, and we as viewers journey alongside them on this adventure of seeking knowledge about the sacredness of NiiSoTeWak, and self-discovery.
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