Alanis Obomsawin (Doctor of Arts)

Alanis ObomsawinJune 9, 2013

ALANIS OBOMSAWIN, you are one of Canada's most distinguished and accomplished filmmakers. Your powerful documentaries have moved the hearts and inspired the minds of people throughout Canada and around the world. In advocating relentlessly for the rights of aboriginal peoples and other under-heard communities across your country, you have become a champion for justice everywhere.

Born in nearby Lebanon, N.H., you were raised on the Odanak reservation north of Montreal and are a proud member of the Abenaki Nation, whose territory once reached from New England to Quebec. You have made it your life's work to share the rich culture of First Nations people through film, music, and engraving, and to raise awareness of the many challenges they face. Your work weaves together meticulous historical research, political insight, and your own intimate knowledge of Native traditions.

Your best-known film—Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance—spotlights the intense 1990 armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police, and the Canadian army over plans to expand a golf course onto sacred burial grounds. The documentary won multiple Canadian and international awards, and you earned wide admiration for the tremendous courage it took to film the historic confrontation. The Canadian Film Encyclopedia describes Kanehsatake as revealing "a keen eye for what's important and a strength that comes from absolute compassion."

Alanis, your presence here marks a momentous closure to our year spent celebrating the arts and the 40th anniversary of our Native American Studies department. In recognition of all you have done to advance the rights and raise cultural awareness of the Native peoples through your art and activism, we are proud to award you with the honorary degree Doctor of Arts.

President Carol L. Folt