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Our Last Words

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Catalogue Number:  FAR062
Producer:  Farpoint Films
Subject:  Anthropology, Canadian History, Canadian Social Studies, Documentary, Environmental Studies, Family Studies/Home Economics, First Nations Studies, Guidance, Health, History, Indigenous Issues, Indigenous Peoples, Science, Social Issues, Social Sciences, Social Studies, Sociology
Language:  English
Grade Level:  9 - 12, Post Secondary, Adult
Country Of Origin:  Canada
Copyright Year:  2011
Running Time:  46:00

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It has been said that in less than a century only three languages will be spoken on earth: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Could this be true? Are aging populations and globalization at the root of this monumental change? Is it happening already? 

Along the Slave River, on the border of Alberta and NWT, sits the town of Fort Smith. Here, an early glimpse of this process is happening before our eyes.

Fort Smith is the first community outside of Alberta, directly downstream from the Athabasca tar sands - the largest industrial project on earth. It seems every day we learn of some new misfortune that has arisen in the lives of those unfortunate enough to live downstream from the tar sands. But this isn't an investigation into the rare cancers and health concerns that have occurred downstream from the world's largest industrial project. This is about another, lesser-known northern issue. Not just people are dying up there. Fort Smith and its neighboring communities are the last vestiges of the Chipewyan language and culture. This is one of Canada’s most remote northern communities where until very recently, isolation protected the people and their customs. But now, the dialect of Chipewyan that is spoken in this neck of the woods is disappearing. The inhabitants of Fort Smith believe only 500 people still speak the language.

Filmmaker Angela Wanderingspirit can trace her roots back to Fort Smith. Her grandparents inhabit a remote cabin there, and live completely off the grid, speaking their native tongue and drinking the contaminated water flowing north from the oil sands. Angela is embarking on a journey of discovery and recovery. She will spend a summer in the woods with her grandparents, learning their language and culture, absorbing all she can. The Cabin is remote as can be. To reach it you have to drive north twelve hours from Edmonton to Fort Smith. The cabin lies in the woods beyond Fort Smith, literally at the end of the road. 

This cabin will function as our “ground zero” for the collision of the largest industrial project on earth, with one of the oldest cultures. Here at this remote location, the largest unexploited energy supply on the planet, the substance at the very center of our modern existence invades a culture and language that is disappearing. Mission with a purpose Angela won’t just be learning the Chipewyan language for herself. Along for the journey is Angela’s daughter Essence, a young girl her grandparents call Moniasco.

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