Filmmaker Michelle Latimer is photographed in Toronto, on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Latimer says she made a mistake in naming the First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi as part of her ancestry without formally verifying it. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Filmmaker Michelle Latimer addresses questions about her Indigenous ancestry

Filmmaker Michelle Latimer addresses questions about her Indigenous ancestry

TORONTO — Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer says she made a mistake in naming the First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi as part of her ancestry without formally verifying it.

The Thunder Bay, Ont.-raised writer-director has issued a statement on Facebook to address what she says are recent questions raised about her ancestry.

The “Inconvenient Indian” documentary maker has claimed in the past to be of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage,from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec.

She apologizes in the statement for naming Kitigan Zibi as her family ancestry, based on information from relatives, before having verified that claim by the community first.

Latimer says in order to address the mistake, she’s reached out to elders and community historians in Kitigan Zibi, and the surrounding areas, to receive guidance and obtain verification.

She says she’s also hired a professional genealogist to understand her family history, and is listening to the advice of an Indigenous community of peers.

“At this point, on paper, I can formally trace through source documentation, one line of our Indigenous ancestry dating back to the 1700’s,” Latimer wrote in the statement issued Thursday.

“I have met with leadership from the community this ancestry directly ties to, and they have verified my family connections and confirmed that this is an accepted ancestral line.”

A representative for Latimer said Thursday she “will not be giving interviews at this time.”

The chief for the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Latimer has worked on many Indigenous-focused projects throughout her career.

The founder of the Toronto-based independent production company Streel Films was the showrunner, writer and director of the Indigenous resistance series “Rise,” which aired on Viceland and APTN.

Her latest work includes “Inconvenient Indian,” which is based on Thomas King’s 2012 non-fiction book and takes viewers on “a critical journey through the colonial narratives of North America.”

The documentary won two awards at September’s Toronto International Film Festival and is in the lineup for the Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off Jan. 28.

Latimer also directed the recent CBC series “Trickster,” which is based on Eden Robinson’s mythical novel about an Indigenous teen and his dysfunctional family.

In her statement Thursday, she wrote she understands the concerns about her ancestry, “given the long history of colonialism and violence in Indigenous Nations.”

Latimer also explained what she knows of her background, citing various accounts of her family residing in the Maniwaki/Kitigan Zibi area.

She recounted how her grandfather talked about the family being Indigenous, and said she and her family are working on confirming other Indigenous ancestors.

“Identifying and honoring the connection to our ancestries and the specific communities from which we come is complicated, but I am committed to being accountable to my community and moving forward in a good way,” Latimer said.

“As an artist of mixed Indigenous and settler ancestry, I know it is my responsibility to be clear and direct about my personal history and ancestral ties. This is a responsibility I have not only to myself, but also to my family, community, Indigenous filmmaking peers, and to all Indigenous people fighting for their sovereignty.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Indigenous

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