Documentary celebrates Mi’kmaq identity in Flat Bay

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on September 10, 2012
Contessa LaSaga, left, and Jackie (White) Snook of Captive Expressions Production Group are seen filming a blueberry picking scene for “L’nug Aganutmaqan,” a documentary on the Mi’kmaq of the Flat Bay area.
Sandra Perrier

FLAT BAY — Production of the first ever documentary to celebrate the Mi’kmaq identity and way of life in the Flat Bay area is nearly complete.

“L’nug Aganutmaqan” (the native’s story), depicts survival through the hardships of living on the west coast of Newfoundland in communities situated between the Fishells and Flat Bay Rivers.

Contessa LaSaga of Captive Expressions Production Group, who handled camera, editing and video production duties, said literally hundreds of hours have gone into preparing the film that features Chief Liz LaSaga of the Flat Bay Indian Band, along with 12 elders of the community.

In addition to interviews with the elders of Flat Bay and St. Teresa, the film will give the viewer a glimpse of the way of life over the last 70 years through a number of re-enactments.

While the elders were interviewed in their homes, different locations in the communities were used as backdrops for the re-enactments.

LaSaga, a graduate of the Film and Video Production program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, felt it was fitting that she could put what she had learned through the program to use locally.

During the making of the film, which commenced shooting in September 2011, LaSaga said she learned so much from the elders she didn’t know about the past.

LaSaga was told a lot of stories about hunting and going into the country and one in particular left a mark, she said.

That one, related by an elder, was about how hunters couldn’t take milk with them on hunting expeditions because it would spoil on their long treks. Often times, they would kill a female caribou and take the udder, with milk inside, out and keep it cool by laying it in a brook — using the milk for their tea as needed.

“I was amazed by many of the survival techniques these hunters had when they went into the woods,” LaSaga said.

The documentary depicts what Mi’kmaq people had to do for survival in the way of gathering food, acquiring shelter and clothing and struggling for an education on the west coast of Newfoundland.

“Everything was a challenge in an area that was fairly isolated at the time,” she said.

When completed, the two-part film will be about 45 minutes in duration and invitations are being sent out to those interviewed and the participants of the re-enactments to attend a gala screening of the documentary on Oct. 20th at 6:30 p.m. in the Flat Bay/St. Teresa Community Centre.

LaSaga said due to space constraints a public viewing is not possible, but hopes after the gala viewing to possibly have a public showing in a larger venue.

She said DVDs of “L’nug Aganutmaqan” will be available for sale after the gala screening. As of last Thursday, LaSaga said there was about a week of work left to complete the film. She’s confident those who see it will enjoy it.

LaSaga was joined by Jackie (White) Snook, elder advisor, in the making of the documentary, who also assisted with the directing.

“It was nice to get the elders to reflect on the past while they are still around. This helps in the preservation of our culture and highlights the knowledge of survival by the people in our Mi’kmaq community,” LaSaga said.