The movie “The Grizzlies” will be coming to Golden next week, as a part of Metis Week, celebrating Indigenous heritage.
The movie tells the story of Russ Sheppard of Saskatchewan, who, fresh out of university, accepts a job teaching in an Indigenous community in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Faced with an ongoing youth suicide crisis, the community, led by Sheppard, bond together through lacrosse, and inspire the next generation.
“We started a stay-in-school youth confidence building program in about 2000, and by about 2003 or 2004 we were having a pretty profound effect on some of the social issues that were plaguing the youth,” said Sheppard. “From there, graduation rates went up, and kids began excelling.”
Lacrosse is called “the Medicine Game” by it’s creators of the Iroquois Nation, as it was believed that playing the game had healing properties.
“The inspiration for the lacrosse program, I think the sport in of itself has a healing nature to it,” said Shepard. “I find a lot of kids really latch on to the game because of the discipline and technical expertise that it takes, and because of that they’re able to develop some of their mental and physical skills concurrently, versus just physical.”
The impact of this program has had a lasting effect on the community which continues to reveal itself decades later.
“The generations that it takes to start to reverse some of the effects of the trauma,” said Sheppard. “A lot of the kids who came through our program are now young adults with families of their own, and they’re teaching those kids a set of new values and morals.”
“The Grizzlies” has a clear message of empathy and overcoming adversity, while exploring the long lasting consequences of colonialism on indigenous communities in Canada.
“I think there’s messages in this movie that speak to all different types of people,” said Sheppard. “From young people that are dealing with their own personal demons, to teachers, to coaches, to adults that have children, it gives a little bit of an empathy for how everybody needs to work together in order to assist each other in a positive kind of lifestyle.”
“The Grizzlies” will be shown on November 16 at 3 p.m. at Kicking Horse Movies.