B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Still from Courtney Montour's film Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again.

ReFrame Review: Mary Two-Axe Earley + Without a Whisper

Written by
Brazil Gaffney-Knox
and
and
January 20, 2022

This is a review of two films that will be screened at ReFrame Film Festival between January 27th and February 4th, 2022.

ReFrame Review: Mary Two-Axe Earley + Without a Whisper
Still from Courtney Montour's film Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again.

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again

“I never met you Mary, even though I grew up two streets over from you in Kahnawà:ke,” narrates Courtney Montour, director of Mary Two-Axe Earley: I am Indian Again. In this short-doc, Kahnawàk:e filmmaker Courtney Montour explores the life and work of Mary Two-Axe Earley, revealing the tenacious character of a woman who had a pivotal, yet underrated, role in late-20th century feminism in this country. 

I am Indian Again details the fight to strike down Section 12 (1)(b) of the Indian Act which dictated that Indigenous women who married non-Indigenous men would lose their status. This discriminatory law disadvantaged many Indigenous women and their progeny, denying them title to property and land, membership status in their communities, and many other rights. 

Protests for Indigenous womens' rights. Still from Courtney Montour's Mary Two-Axe Early: I am Indian Again.

The film hinges on archival material: Mary Two-Axe Earley captured crisply on archival tapes from interviews between her and Alanis Obomsawin in 1984, footage of a wedding, marches, and moments in Kahnawàk:e as well as scenes from Two-Axe Earley’s time speaking to the federal government in Ottawa. Montour effortlessly plays with the personal. “When I listen to your voice, I am comforted, I feel like I’m listening to my grandmother,” she says, framing Two-Axe Earley as both a feminist hero, and her neighbour. “I wanted to know you better,” narrates Montour, “so I began to collect every fragment of your past that I could find.”

Montour’s film is at once intimate and broad. Ed Two-Axe Early, Mary’s son, listens to nearly 40 year old tapes of her he’s never heard before and Cree activist Nellie Carlson is interviewed about her years of work alongside Mary. Scenes depicting a younger Pierre-Elliot Trudeau in parliament feel like a damning audio-visual archive of the sexist, racist state Canada continues to be.  

I am Indian Again documents work that has already been done to bring about justice on stolen land, it serves to remind us how much there is ahead. 

Settler feminist scholar Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner and Mowhawk Clan Mother Louise Herne from  Katsitsionni Fox’s film Without a Whisper.

Without a Whisper - Konnón:Kwe

‘American feminism began in Seneca falls in 1848’ is one of those truths that has been repeated so many times it’s engraved into public consciousness. The film Without a Whisper chronicles an alternate origin to the women’s movement in the U.S. - one that involves Indigenous women.

Through Mowhawk Clan Mother Louise Herne and settler feminist scholar Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner we learn the hidden history of the Indigenous community who inspired the settler women who started the suffrage movement. Though there are recorded relationships between suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage to Indigenous nations, until recently there has been little research done to show the influence Indigenous ways of life had on American feminism.

“I remember growing up and listening to the Grandmas and them hearing about feminism. My Grandma would say “We’re not feminists, we’re the law,” recollects Louise Herne while on stage with Gloria Steinem, Dr. Wagner, and Carol Jenkins. Whisper frankly discusses the exclusion of Indigenous women in the suffrage movement.

White feminism may have its roots in the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, but Indigenous women had ‘rights’ before this idea took hold in settler culture. Without a Whisper is Katsitsionni Fox’s careful re-writing of history, to unwind what is commonly taught about feminism in America and make a case for a feminism that is actively Indigenized. 

Without a Whisper and Mary Two-Axe Early: I am Indian Again will be screened at ReFrame Film Festival between January 27th and February 4th, 2022. Filmmakers of both films, Courtney Montour and Katsitsionni Fox respectively, will be speaking after the screening on February 2nd at 6:45 pm. This talk will be available to view on the ReFrame site until February 4th.

B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Written By
Sponsored
B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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