“Twice Colonized” will have its Canadian premiere as the opening night film at Toronto Hot Docs. It is a documentary focusing on renowned Inuit activist lawyer Aaju Peter living in Iqaluit in Nunavut.
Peter was born in the Danish colony of Greenland and at the wish of her father was sent to Denmark to be “educated” where she lost her language, culture and any stability a childhood might have afforded. She boarded with families so this was not a residential school setting like in Canada but she remarks it had the same goal and objective that being the “whitifying” of indigenous children. She stayed in Denmark from 11-18 years of age. Eventually she moved to Nunavut in Canada. Both Greenland and Canada have Inuit populations. Peter says she was colonized twice. Once by Denmark then by Canada.
Her childhood in Greenland was very rough as she and her brother used to go to the dump to find food to eat. She may have escaped hunger by travelling to Denmark for her schooling but her dignity was more important than food on her plate.
She was insulted and angered by her colonization and has used that energy to advocate for indigenous rights both in Canada and in the EU attempting to create a permanent indigenous forum in the EU. The EU’s animal activists believing animal rights were more important than indigenous rights managed to ban imports of seal products to the EU crippling the Canadian Inuit economy, wounding the pride and dignity of the Inuit and creating hunger. The seal import ban requires more fleshing out than as given in this documentary.
Peter notes the colonization of the Inuit has many unable to comprehend anything but the Inuit of many years past. She wants the Inuit to be part of the modern economy not as imposed by the colonizers but on Inuit terms. What those terms are not explained.
Despite the suicide of her son and being in what seems an abusive relationship with her boyfriend she rolls along hoping to write a book “Twice Colonized”. So in addition to dealing with political struggles she has to wrestle with some personal demons.
Colonization of indigenous populations in Canada was brought to light in a very public way with legal action against the Canadian government by many indigenous nations for the damages caused by the residential school system so the documentary adds little to that concept but it brings Peter’s experience vividly to life and it personalizes colonization to make it more understandable for many not understanding it. It also universalizes colonization to many indigenous peoples throughout the globe. In many ways the colonization of the Inuit has similarities to the indigenous populations of Brazil “relocated” because of hydro electric projects.
This Danish-Canadian-Greenland documentary screens 27/28 April and 1May. It will open in Canadian theatres on 12 May and will be shown on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Passionate Eye” in its 2023/24 season.
This 91-minute film is directed by Lin Alluna.
RKS 2023 Film Rating 87/100.