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Mohawk Girls

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Joanne Robertson, Christina Fon, Catherine Bainbridge, (Rezolution Pictures International), Adam Symansky and Sally Bochner (National Film Board of Canada)
Directed By Tracey Deer
DVD, color, 53 min.
Jr. High - Adult
Adolescence, Canadian Studies, Native American Studies, Social Studies, Women's Studies

Reviewed by Nicole Cooke, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 5/4/2007

In another excellent documentary from the National Film Board of Canada, independent filmmaker Tracey Deer provides an autobiographical look into her life growing up on a Native American Indian reservation, the Kahnawake Native Reserve, located just outside of Montreal, Quebec. Tracey exudes both pride and ambivalence about growing up in the “Mohawk” culture; she intersperses her own adolescent home videos with revealing interviews conducted with three teenage girls, the Mohawk Girls, and their families. Although younger than Tracey, the girls interviewed (Amy, Lauren and Felicia) all share similar experiences. While proud to be Native American, there is a strong desire to get out of Kahnawake, which can be a limiting and perhaps even claustrophobic existence.

Even within a small, self-sufficient community like Kahnawake, there is a great deal of strife, mainly related to issues of bloodlines – it is very important for Mohawks to be full-blood Native Americans (as opposed to being half-blooded, or mixed with another race or culture). Bloodlines determine voting rights, inheritances and other matters on the reservation. The prejudice within the community is unfortunate and very prevalent. Another interesting issue for the community is language; Kahnawake Indians speak English, which becomes problematic as Quebec is a French speaking area of Canada. If Mohawks are not bilingual, this can insulate them further.

Tracey Deer could easily have turned the subject matter into something maudlin, but the resulting documentary is fresh, unique and compelling. The technical components are above average, matching the quality of the content; the film’s audio and visual editing are also of good quality. Mohawk Girls is an enlightening film and should be shared widely with students. It can be utilized within a variety of different subject areas, including social studies and women’s studies. Mohawk Girls is highly recommended, and is best suited for school libraries, media centers and academic libraries.