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.
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.
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: