The tiny First Nations village of Tsaxis, or Fort Rupert, lies at the remote northern end of Vancouver Island. It was in its idyllic natural harbour that two outsiders happened to meet, Anislaga (or Mary Ebbets) and Robert Hunt. The daughter of a powerful Tlingit chief from Alaska, Anislaga was travelling with her father on a trading trip to Victoria. Robert was the Hudson’s Bay representative and was to establish a fort to establish the British presence in this important part of the colony. They married and started a family that, in the subsequent 150 years, produced over 1200 ancestors.
Exactly who was Anislaga? What treasures did she bring with her when she settled in Kwakwakwala territory and where are they now? How was it that she was accepted by the people of a foreign tribe, steeped in their own traditions and sense of place? How did the fort influence the region and how did she come to be the one running it? Through interviews of family members, historians and anthropologists, this 20-minute film will answer these questions. Items from personal collections will be revealed, such as stunning engraved bracelets and the powerful coppers that are synonymous with status in potlatches. Museums will open their doors to show intricate blankets she painstakingly wove in the secretive art of Chilkat weaving, an art reserved only for those of nobility. A quest will be launched to locate possessions that have gone missing. Various members of the family will tell their connection to their ancestor with stories recounted to them by their elders. Traditional ceremonies will be conducted to honour her place in the Big House. The beauty of the region that enchanted Robert and Anislaga will be shown in its splendour.
In the process of defining this powerful woman, the Hunt family members will talk about what it means to reconnect with their traditional roots as Kwakwaka’wakw people, their complicated lineage from this mixed race union, the power of their ancestors who traded as equals with the British, their place in society as some of this country’s most respected artists and their sense of place as strong and proud members of the Canadian mosaic.
In July 5-7, 2013, a celebration will take place in Fort Rupert. It will gather the members of the Hunt family and commemorate Anislaga. Of the hundred or so family members that are artists, many will contribute to projects such as carving a great totem pole to become a grave marker for the matriarch. An exhibit will display items from her treasure box. Archival photographs from 100 years ago will be displayed on location. Dances will be performed, some from her ancestral home in Alaska. A feast and family events will be held to allow people to renew connections or perhaps meet each other for the first time. This special event will be documented in order to be shared far beyond the walls of the Big House of this small but fascinating village.
Anislaga and Robert Hunt’s story set in the heart of Kwakwaka’wakw territory, is in many ways a quintessential Canadian story. It is the union of two immigrants who integrated with the people and place they settled in, creating a legacy of commerce, art and culture. Anislaga’s life was rich in history, intrigue and power, as she carefully shaped the generations to come. One and a half centuries later, her descendents pay homage to her.
Corrine Hunt, Producer
Corrine is a designer and engraver, combining a contemporary esthetic with her ancestral cultures of the Komoyue and Tlingit First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. Notably, she co-designed the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medals in Vancouver. Her work includes designing coins for the Canadian Mint, a major exhibit of coastal art in Dresden, Germany, installations in hotels, corporate offices and homes the world over, and of course, her jewelry. She has a deep commitment to aboriginal issues, and is dedicated to promoting peace and a sense of spirituality through sharing and engaging with people of every background. She was born in Alert Bay, near her ancestral home of Fort Rupert, but is as comfortable in her village as she is in Berlin.
Marina Dodis, Director/Director of Photography
Marina is a documentary filmmaker with an extensive background in commercial and editorial photography. She has made or contributed to a dozen short films. Her film "Going Strong" has been seen in festivals and on the Knowledge Network. She has travelled to over 20 countries, and this experience has informed her awareness of diverse cultures and social justice issues. Her interest in film is centered on revealing people’s rich stories in a visually compelling manner. She is currently working on with Knowledge Network on a series of short documentaries on British Columbia personalities.
The funds received will be used for the filming expenses, including editing, usage fees for archival photographs and travel costs to Tsaxis. The amount we have set as the goal, $12,000 is the minimum required to launch the project and ensure the event of the celebration is properly documented. Additional funds will be needed for post production. The more funds we are able to raise, the higher the production value of the finished product.
We have already spent a considerable amount of money and time on accumulating footage, conducting unique interviews and gathering archival material for the film. We are mounting a display of the artifacts associated with Anislaga for the celebration. This is documentation work is important for the Hunt family and the community at large.
Dependent of the amount contributed we have some amazing and unique perks. We have renowned artists involved in this project and so you will be in for a treat!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
Tell people you know about our project and help us get this film made.
The IMPORTANCE of this FILM
The history of First Nations communities is often only superficially known, even from within. This history is of value to all of us. In order to know who we are, from whatever background, it is important to connect to our past and to each other. Events like the Hunt family reunion serve to strengthen identity and form lasting bonds. The Kwakwakwala people have a rich tradition of sharing their stories and welcoming others to witness their traditions. By accepting this invitation, we can only be enriched by connecting to each other and opening our minds and hearts to the rich diversity of our country.