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Six Strings Film: A Story of Indigenous Restorative Justice

Six Strings: A Story of Indigenous Restorative Justice

Written by Anna Fraiberg

Six Strings is a short film produced by Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na (TTO) and directed by Bawaadan Collective, shot over two weeks in the late summer of 2021 entirely in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory with actors from the community. The film is only available in the Mohawk language, purposefully with no English subtitles as TTO’s mission is to revitalize the language. Bringing the film to life meant lots of time spent consulting with various museums and people who hold knowledge about wampum and traditions.

a person's lap wth strings of beaded wampum in their hands

On June 10th, 1800, a bitter dispute between rival factions within the Mohawk Village on the Bay of Quinte escalated into violence and the murder of a father and his son. The film is based on the actual transcript of the nine-day Mohawk Council, highlighting the traditional ways of restorative justice and conflict resolution within the community.

As a result, nobody went to jail, everyone came forward and told their truth, and they took on the responsibility from that time forward to make things better for their community and conduct themselves in a way that was acceptable for the community. TTO’s Executive Director Callie Hill says, “This was a time before the Indian Act that changed the landscape of who we are and how we conduct our business within the community.” The Mohawk language was also very much alive at the time, so were the Indigenous systems of governance with clan chiefs. Conflict resolution looked entirely different.

a man in plain clothes with a serious look on his face
a hand holding up a spear into the sky

The title Six Strings represents the six strings of wampum shown at the end that were there to express sympathy and grieve the people who lost their lives. The film was made possible with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Seed Grant, and it went on to be shown in some festivals including TIFF, even shown in New Zealand and others around the world. The film only plays now at festivals and other special screenings. 

Callie says they hope to get a full-length version of the film in the works once they secure the funding to do so. For questions or inquiries about the film, reach out to [email protected].

About Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na:

Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na (TTO) was established in 2000 by a group of community members concerned with the critical state of the Mohawk language in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The name means keeping the words alive. Their services include an early years program, a primary Mohawk immersion school, adult language programs including full-time immersion, evening programs and an accredited certificate program. TTO is an incorporated not-for-profit  with charitable status serving the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and all of those seeking to learn about their proud culture.
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The Bay of Quinte RMB Land Acknowledgement

The Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board is committed to acknowledging, appreciating and understanding the Indigenous peoples’ historic connection to this land and to raising awareness by building relationships in collaboration with Indigenous partners and communities. 

We recognize and acknowledge that we are living and working on the traditional territory of the Wendat, Mississauga, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee which includes the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte) with whom we work in direct partnership with. 

This partnership focuses on the common goal of celebrating the region with the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka who are equal partners within the organization and at the Board of Directors table contributing to the mandate and operations.

This mandate includes listening to, learning from, and collaborating with the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka and actively incorporating their culture and heritage into the practice of responsible destination marketing and management of the region.

We understand that this land acknowledgement is only a small step towards the larger process of reparations and reconciliation.

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